Moonlighting (Jerzy Skolimowski, 1982, UK)

Moonlighting is an understated and underrated film from director Jerzy Skolimowski. While the film did receive awards (including Best Screenplay at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival), and accolades (Gene Siskel called it his favorite film of 1982), Moonlighting has been largely forgotten. Maybe this is because, on the surface, the film is remarkably simple. Moonlighting tells the story of Nowak, a Polish contractor, who leads a group of Polish laborers overseas to London to work on their boss’s flat. While the group is in London, martial law is instituted in Poland. 
Much of the action place takes inside the mind of our narrator Nowak. Being the only member of the group who speaks English, he essentially becomes a caretaker for the three Polish workers. He becomes their window to life in London, and as the events of Solidarity become inflamed in their homeland, he decides to shield them from these events in order to complete their job on schedule. There is a clear metaphorical implication here, with Nowak effectively taking on the role of the Polish government, handling everything from foot shortages (he begins to steal), to manipulating the messages the workers receive from their wives, to convincing them they’ve slept more hours than they actually have. He even goes so far as to literally censor news of Solidarity, tearing down movement posters from the London streets.
Moonlighting is a drab and moody affair, centered around the drudgery and repetitive action of labor. The alienation of the Poles in London is accented by the hostile attitude of everyone around them. With Skolimowski at the helm, there is a degree of sexual tension as well, involving Nowak’s paranoia over his wife’s fidelity. Jeremy Irons carries the film, and while he may not be the most convincing Pole, he brings an intensity to the role that makes the whole proceedings very convincing. Moonlighting deserves more attention.

8/10

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