Poland gives us a drama of particular appeal to lesbian audiences.


Julia Kijowska and Eliza Rycembel


Olga Chajdas can take the credit for some of the best things in this film, but it is also the case that she shares in the blame for some of the worst. This is a first feature and Chajdas is clearly revealed as somebody who has a natural eye for cinema. It is hardly chance that scenes set during a class held in a Polish high school involve discussion of Jean-Luc Godard's 1963 classic Le Mépris but, far from being Godardian, Nina shows in its visuals as expressed through camera movement, composition and editing a style that, although born of a deep understanding of cinema and its history, is yet strikingly individual. However, Chajdas shares in the writing credit and it is the screenplay that is responsible for the film's weaknesses.


Initially one feels that the film is far better at creating atmosphere than in telling a clear and flowing story and that applies both to the lesbian world established at the start in which we meet Magda (Eliza Rycembel) and to the school setting where Nina (Julia Kijowska), the daughter of the headmistress (Katerzyna Gniewkowska), teaches. Although it had seemed likely that the lesbian element would be central - and, indeed, it becomes so - we find that the initial emphasis is on the fact that Nina is unable to have a child and has submitted to fertility treatment before agreeing with her husband, Wotjek (Andrzej Konopka), that they should proceed by seeking a surrogate mother who would be paid to provide them with a child.


That a couple should turn to the internet with this aim in mind is no longer unpersuasive, but when that fails it seems unlikely that Wotjek would opt to approach Magda known to him as a customer at his car repair garage simply because she is pretty. Even allowing for the pot smoking that goes on, the scene in which the   two of them make overtures to Magda seems still less credible. When Magda is understandably put off Nina sets out to win her over and it is only then that Magda's sexuality becomes known to her. This is the point at which Nina, growing friendly with Magda, unexpectedly discovers her own lesbian inclinations. In all respects this storyline would gain in credibility if the screenplay were better and matters get even worse in the film's last half-hour when late plot developments prove even more challenging to our suspension of disbelief. Fortunately, both Julia Kijowska and Eliza Rycembel give committed performances that help throughout and, despite Chajdas succumbing on occasion to self-conscious colour stylisations, it is not often these days that a debut feature is so indicative of a director who is a born filmmaker. That's enough to make Nina worth a look, but its drawbacks cannot unfortunately be denied.




Cast: Julia Kijowska, Eliza Rycembel, Andrzej Konopka, Katerzyna Gniewkowska, Tatiana Pauhofová, Alicja Juszkiewicz, Maria Peszek, Magdalena Czerwińska, Ryszard Jablonski, Joanna Balas.


Dir Olga Chajdas, Pro Dariusz Pietrykowski and Andrzej Polec, Screenplay Marta Konarzewska and Olga Chajdas with Julia Kijowska, Ph Tomasz Naumiuk, Pro Des Anna Anosowicz, Ed Kasia Adamik, Music SMOLIK, Costumes Katarzyna Lewińska.


Film It/Polski Instytut Sztuki Filmowej-Peccadillo Pictures.
130 mins. Poland. 2018. Rel: 25 January 2019. No Cert.