Grażyna Plebanek’s ‘Sex in Socks’

An extracts of an essay about Polish cinema by Grażyna Plebanek, author of Illegal Liaisons, translated by Danusia Stok, in Kinoteka Polish Film Festival programme.



‘They say we Poles are intense. We get heated up, gesticulate, ramble on in overly long sentences or hold back sullenly. We drown our sorrows, so says the stereotype. This is the face we mould for ourselves; this is the face moulded for us. But it’s not the only one. The Slav god, Svetovid, had four. What would Polish faces formed by film images made in Poland look like today?

The face of a woman. Moulded by forty years of conscientiously fulfilling life’s practical roles, it cries with emotion, even though the main character in Tomasz Wasilewski’s debut, In the Bedroom (2012), hardly says a word (her first is the familiar swear word “kurwa”, but it is barely muttered). Gradually freed from make-up and a fringe stiff with hair-lacquer, it reveals a childlike curiosity which pushes the woman to travel the world impulsively. She grows to know it from the bedroom where she lures her men. Snuggling to their sleeping bodies, she takes possession of their worlds — now it is she who reigns. On territory which she — in her womanly way — has conquered, she is free. Who is this forty-year-old Polish woman whose home resembles a well-guarded bastion? Had she not escaped her own world, she would not have got to know herself or her sensuality — and not in the bedroom of the title at that.

The face of a man. Eryk, a secret services agent sent on compulsory leave, shouts and swears, shoots and kills, but can’t break through the drama of his own past. The main character in Jan Jakub Kolski’s film To Kill a Beaver (2012) is haunted by memories. The girl, who appears from nowhere, serves him in many ways: through her body he wants to break free, through her sensitivity get out into the sun. The force of despair in the erotic scenes — full of courage and abandon although sex is performed in socks — leaves a strong impression. The hands of the girl bring the main character ultimate comfort. And, contrary to expectation, it is not in bed (…)

A Polish face either screams or is silent. With intensity. It is suffocated by memory, history and the unexpressed — taboo. The figure of a man is still that of an avenger and knight defending women but he is joined by the man who suffers, who doesn’t know how to get to grips with himself. The women in films suffer, betray, kill — and finally do something to reclaim themselves. They still serve suffering men but to the role of field nurse they add another — that of the hand which punishes, which takes life away. The face of a Polish woman ceases to be the face of a suffering Madonna; from beneath it emerges the image of a Medusa.’


Follow this link to read the full text on Kinoteka Polish Film Festival website.