The Balcony Movie
(Poland, 101 min.)
Dir. Paweł Łoziński
Programme: The Changing Face of Europe
In Paweł Łoziński’s latest film The Balcony Movie, the Polish director asks strangers for their thoughts on life as they pass by the walkway below his balcony in Warsaw. Łoziński attempts to weave together disjointed stories exploring the uniqueness of life, and while the concept is intriguing, its execution doesn’t fully meet its potential.
For two years, Łoziński set up a camera and boom mic on his balcony and accosted his neighbours and passers-by to step into the frame. Save for a few exceptions, Łoziński keeps the camera stationary, holding our focus on the pavement just beyond his backyard. For those who oblige, Łoziński explains to them that he’s making a film and proceeds to engage them in conversations asking them who they are and what life means to them.
While some individuals offer interesting insights into our existence–“we’re like a tiny dot of chance,” says one woman who was reading Carl Sagan’s Billions and Billions at the time–the most compelling subjects are those who pull the curtain back and offer us and Łoziński a peek into their lives. The postman who laments about his once-proud profession being relegated to delivery man for people too lazy to go to the store to purchase their household items offers an interesting perspective on the pervasiveness of online shopping. A single father of two young girls who is introduced as a ‘Madaddy,’ gives a brief glimpse inside the psyche of how one navigates parenthood alone.
As the film progresses, Łoziński finds he has a handful of returning guest stars. There’s a man recently released from prison looking to get his life back on track, and a woman who initially hams it up for the camera and returns to reveal a surprising announcement. Neither individual is a friend of Łoziński prior to filming, but both (and others) return to his camera, almost treating it as a safe space to express their frustrations and joys.
The Balcony Movie moves between seasons and gives us a curated snapshot of Poland. A particularly great edit shows how Poland has progressed between generations. In one frame, a young woman embraces her girlfriend and their child, unbothered, with only contentment in her voice. This is contrasted by a sombre older gentleman grieving over the passing of his partner of 40 years, whom he had to pretend was his “brother” in order to avoid unwanted scrutiny. Łoziński also makes it a point to show the numerous individuals marching by with Polish flags draped on their backs as they make their way to a presumed protest. “God, honour, and fatherland,” they cry out in hopes for society’s return to ‘traditional values.’
While the editing by Łoziński and Piasek & Wójcik is fundamental in tying together interviews to form a cohesive narrative arc, arguably Łoziński doesn’t gather enough interesting conversations to fill the entire 101-minute runtime effectively. There are moments where the film stalls. It doesn’t feel like enough food for thought was offered to make a satisfying meal. Łoziński chooses not to draw any conclusions; instead he leaves the film to meander and end without much fanfare.
Łoziński’s examination of the mundane is an interesting concept. Many of the people Łoziński approaches don’t believe their stories or lives to be interesting enough to be the subject of a film. However as Łoziński speaks to them, we uncover tales of unrequited love, the exhausting joy of new motherhood, and the perils of inadequacy. This filmic exercise is a wonderful way of capturing life’s beauty, but it falls short of having anything meaningful to say.
The Balcony Movie had its Canadian premiere at the 2022 Hot Docs Film Festival.