Lasting, a film by Polish director Jacek Boruch. takes a close-up look at the young love of a Polish couple who meet while working in rural Spain before returning home to attend university. The intimate love story that blossoms in the warm Spanish sun turns bleak, and is drained of its spirit by the time they return to Poland. Despite these affecting moods it is very much a story set in a bubble, one that attempts to penetrate the inner worlds of its protagonists but comes up short, never fully achieving the intensity or insight such a film requires.
From its strong opening scenes, as the couple fall in love in all its folly, the director attempts to immerse us fully into the young couple’s romance. It is immediately clear that the clean-cut Michal (Jakub Gierszal) and Karina played (Magdalena Berus) will have to carry this film in their physicality and personalities – as one tight close-up after another shapes the narrative of the film. Unfortunately there is not enough presence, not enough energy or intrigue to compel us to go deeper into Michal. When the film turns on a slightly bizarre incident in which Michal ends up killing a Spanish landlord in whose lakes he has been scuba-diving, the accompanying turn in character and mood is muted by comparison. The couple return separately to Poland, Michal’s inner torment causing the relationship to break.
The film now shifts to Karina’s perspective, and Magdalena Berus carries the film strongly as she attempts to make sense of the loss of such an intense love. Her world is bleak and lonely, a cold father is of little use in this turbulent time. We get some sense of environment and context of the story through Karina, as a young student having to make life-changing decisions, and the film in this bleakness somehow feels richer and more honest.
The narrative stutters forward, each time introducing dramatic obstacles to move the film along rather purposively, stopping us being fully immersed in the characters’ inner conflicts. The sense of rhythm and flow of the film owes much to cinematographer Michal Englert, who with some superb handheld camera work, choreographs nice sequences as the couple try to resolve their differences.
Thus Lasting is a film with many nice components, but does not fully come together to reveal much about the characters on whom it has so intently focused. We have to ask questions too about the sense of shooting the film in Spain: it isn’t clear what this really contributes to the relationship or the story – another European co-production whose financing influences artistic choices? I can’t help but think had we stayed in Poland for longer, more layers, more depth would have been revealed, situating this otherwise strong love story on firmer ground.
Lasting is part of the KINOTEKA Polish Film Festival 2014. Please see cultural diary for details.