By Maribeth Thueson
When Marek Kozakiewicz began filming his observational documentary Silent Love, he thought it would be about 35-year-old Agnieszka and her 14-year-old brother, Milosz. Agnieszka had left their Polish village years before to work in Germany, but after their mother dies (their father died years before), Agnieszka returns to Poland to raise Milosz and applies to become his legal guardian.
But eventually the story of another relationship emerges — that of Agnieszka and her lover, Majka. Majka is also from Poland, and like Agnieszka, has been living and working in Germany. When Agnieszka moves back to Poland, Majka stays behind. Eventually Majka comes for a visit, and strikes up a friendship with Milosz, although he seems unaware of the true nature of Majka and Agnieszka’s relationship and how they must hide it from the people of their small town.
Although there are gay pride parades in the larger cities, smaller Polish towns are passing anti-gay ordinances. The Catholic church preaches that the only real families are those with a mother and a father, and the middle-school teacher who is teaching Milosz and his classmates how to dance the polonaise indoctrinates her students on gender roles. In this environment, Agnieszka is forced to lie to the authorities in order to win her guardianship.
Agnieszka would like nothing more than to take Milosz back to Germany to live, but he refuses to go and leave his friends. She invites Majka to move in with her and Milosz, but given the anti-gay atmosphere in the village, Majka is scared to make the move.
The tensions these three are under make for an absorbing film. They are average people, just trying to get by and find a little happiness, and yet so many things are against them. First-time director Kozakiewicz used his experience as a cinematographer to unobtrusively insert the camera into their lives. They often seem to forget he’s there. He lets them tell their own story without much comment. As a result, it’s very easy to empathize with the three, who are working toward becoming a family.
Silent Love won the Best Polish Film Award and the First Appearance Award at 2022 Millenium Docs Against Gravity, the biggest documentary film festival in Poland. It was also a nominee for Best Feature Debut Documentary at the 2022 Koszalinski Festiwal Debiutow Filmowych Mlodzi i Film.
Silent Love will be screening tomorrow, January 25th at 11:15 am at the Treasure Mountain Inn in the Crescent Room in Park City, UT as part of the Slamdance Film Festival. You can also watch our interview with director Marek Kozakiewicz here tomorrow morning. Don’t forget to follow us here for more film festival news and movie reviews.