Polish Cinema: Working Women (Piotr Szulkin, 1978, Poland)

 Piotr Szulkin is certainly one of the most interesting Polish auteurs of the late stages of the PRL.

Szulkin came to prominence with a tetralogy of dystopian science fiction films - Golem (1980), The War of the Worlds: Next Century (1981), O-Bi, O-Ba: The End of Civilization (1984), and GA-GA: Glory to the Heroes (1986). These represent interesting entries in a renaissance in Polish science fiction during the 1980s which also included films like 1985's Sexmission. Before becoming identified as a genre filmmaker, Szulkin began his career with several short films - including 1978's Working Women

The film begins with footage of a group of women leaving a building, followed by the title card. We are then introduced to our first woman - she is sweeping the dirt from a sidewalk. The showcase continues with another woman, this one peeling a potato in a grim industrial kitchen setting. We learn nothing about these women beyond the labor that is being performed. The third woman is steering a tramcar around the city. The fourth woman is shown getting a fish. In the fifth, we see a woman operating heavy machinery. The sixth segment is somewhat a departure from the rest - a woman sits on a bed with a crying baby, while on the TV we see a video of a couple embracing. 

The film is attempting to comment on the dehumanizing of humanity. It is no wonder that Szulkin's films had issues with authority - rather than liberation, we see that these women are being dehumanized by the labor they occupy. It is far from an uplifting and empowering film - instead, the film has a dark edge to it that shows that the emancipation of the society has led to some grim outcomes - particularly with the final sequence.



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