This precise drama by one of Poland’s foremost female directors is wryly comic if also conceptually peculiar as it explores grief and the afterlife against a father-and-daughter narrative.
Dir. Malgorzata Szumowska
2015 | Poland | Drama | 90 mins | Polish & Spanish
Not rated – likely to be at least M18 for mature themes and some nudity
Cast: Janusz Gajos, Maja Ostaszewska, Justyna Suwala
Plot: A busy attorney, worried that his anorexic daughter Olga might try to harm herself, since she’s still grieving over her recently deceased mother, sends her to see a psychiatrist, Anna, who’s dealing with her own loss in an unusual way.
Awards: Won Best Director & Nom. for Golden Bear (Berlin)
International Sales: Memento Films
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Audience Type: General Arthouse
Problematic father-and-daughter narratives have been done to death in various forms, but Body is an interesting, slightly peculiar take on the theme.
A film by Malgorzata Szumowska, one of Poland’s foremost female directors working today, Body is a precisely-calibrated drama exploring the nature of grief as it commingles with aspects of the afterlife, and setting against the story of an anorexic young woman named Olga, who is going through psychotherapy led by a psychiatrist called Anna, who seems to be able to connect with the dead.
Olga and her father, Janusz, an attorney who is always busy checking out grisly crime scenes, have recently experienced a personal loss after Olga’s mother unexpectedly passed away. Unable to connect, Janusz struggles to understand her daughter whose behaviour becomes increasingly erratic.
Szumowska’s assured hand in developing what feels like a conceptually fascinating film is a joy to watch, despite its rather slow pacing. In fact, things are already weird in the prologue, with Szumowska setting a tone of uncertainty, and perhaps even of the supernatural seeping in the real world.
She cleverly uses elements of horror to build up suspense (one excellent sequence features the song ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’), but this is after all still an arthouse film, so don’t expect it to go the way you think it will go.
The finale may be frustrating to some viewers, but there is something wryly comic about its execution (and of the entire film) that just about ensures that the film can be appreciated for its absurdity as well as its strong performances.