Polish Cinema: Everyday Life (Piotr Szulkin, 1976, Poland)

Everyday Life (Codzienne zycie) is a 1975 short film by Piotr Szulkin. While Szulkin would become later known for his tetralogy of dystopian science fiction films in the early 1980s, his early short films - including Working Women - explore a fascination with the mundane. Namely, the relationship of man to his labor. Everyday Life is no exception. The film methodically breaks down the life of what could be considered a "middle-class" (by the standards of the time) laborer in urban Poland during the mid-1970s. We follow a couple from the time they wake up until the end of the day and follow them through their routine.

Formally, the film is noteworthy for the way that Szulkin deemphasizes the people performing the acts. As with Working Women, he reduces the figures on the screen to the acts they are performing - whether that is brushing their teeth, going shopping, etc. Szulkin specifically frames the camera in such a way that we don't see the faces of the couple we are following - even in their most intimate moments at home. Certainly, Szulkin is offering some commentary on the alienation of people from their daily actions and the labor performed.

Given that Szulkin's portrayals of women in his later features are not particularly flattering, it is noteworthy here that he shows particular sympathy for the woman in this relationship. While the man goes home to rest at night, we see that the woman's labor is not done. She continues to work well into the night (we can see this from the time stamps that Szulkin intersperses throughout the film), while the man gets to rest. This reflects the common impression that the liberation of women under the Soviet system mainly meant that they were burdened not only with labor but also with home life.



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