Polish Cinema: Squint Your Eyes (Andrzej Jakimowski, 2002, Poland)

                Squint Your Eyes (Zmruz Oczy), the feature film debut of director Andrzej Jakimowski, is a film that was largely lauded in Poland upon its release but failed to make waves internationally. It is easy to understand why – this is a quiet, contemplative film, keener to examine the setting sun than show broad strokes of emotion. The film concerns an ex-teacher named Jasiek (Zbigniew Zamachowski) who has taken up residence of an abandoned communist-era farm. Jasiek is clearly escaping from something. He surrounds himself with various misfits and forms a community of his own. At the beginning of the film, we learn he has been joined by a 10-year old girl, Mala (Olga Proszynska), who hates her parents and affluent life and dreams of starting something new.

               Squint Your Eyes feels largely the product of a transitional period in Polish society when the vestiges of the communist era were still very present, but new Western materialism was making itself felt. Mala’s parents, played by Andrzej Chyra and Malgorzata Foremniak, represent this Western materialism with their fancy new car. Jasiek, on the other hand, represents a third path. He has left the hustle and bustle of Warsaw for Elk, a small city in northeastern Poland.

               While there is not much plot to speak of in Squint Your Eyes, the film is much more about establishing a mood. This is done principally via the cinematography of Adam Bajerski and Pawel Smietanka, who beautifully photograph the rural areas of Poland. The music by Tomasz Gassowski also sets the mood. The film also benefits from the presence of various non-actors, who give the film an almost documentary feel at times. For those interested in a philosophical film about this period of transition in Poland, Zmruz oczy is worth watching and evaluating. The performances are uniformly great.


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