Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
Original Title: Cicha ziemia
Poland/Czech Republic/Italy, 2021. Lava Films, Kino Produzioni, I/O post, EC1 Lódz – Miasto Kultury, Canal+ Polska, Eurimages, Státní fond kinematografie, Ministero della Cultura, Polski Instytut Sztuki Filmowej, Fondazione Sardegna Film Commission. Screenplay by Piotr Litwin, Agnieszka Woszczynska. Cinematography by Bartosz Swiniarski. Produced by Giovanni Pompili, Agnieszka Wasiak. Production Design by Ilaria Sadun. Costume Design by Anna Sikorska. Film Editing by Jaroslaw Kaminski.
A Polish couple have come to a peaceful Italian seaside town and rented a villa, which they chose for its swimming pool that, they learn to their dismay upon arrival, is out of order. The owner offers them a discount on their rental fee but they decline, insisting instead that repairs be done even if it takes a day or two. The young man who shows up is Arab, likely a migrant worker, and his presence, not helped by his difficulty communicating with them, immediately creates unease in the couple. When the worker suffers a very serious accident while on the job, they call for help and, during the police investigation into the matter, CCTV footage is examined and what the visitors they say they did to help the victim doesn’t quite match what they actually did. The authorities are confused, they are not under suspicion for having done any intentional harm, but they could have been of more assistance than they actually were, so why weren’t they? The vacation continues with our protagonists meeting a couple with whom they go scuba diving, but as time passes, the shadow of the devastating event doesn’t leave them and ruins what should have been an easy, sunny break from their busy lives. In the couple’s private moments, what started out as peaceful enjoyment of coffee on the terrace every morning and regular sex every night also begins to fall apart as feelings of guilt and unspoken accusations lead to those made out in the open. Stunningly photographed and subtly directed, Agnieszka Woszczynska’s feature directorial debut is a sharp and intelligent examination of xenophobia, class privilege and EU politics that never allows its characters to ever feel like messengers for the symbolism intended by the narrative. The discomfort of every situation, beginning with two characters you feel compelled to watch despite never being certain if you like them, is so brittle that you’re afraid to ruin things by making a single sound, as Woszczynska plunges us further into the nightmare she has created with such quiet grace.
Toronto International Film Festival: 2021