Dir: Robert Glinski Poland 2001. 86mins.
After making an impressive acting debut as a young criminal in the leading role of Robert Glinski's Hi, Teresa, 15-year- old Aleksandra Gieter had to return to the reform school that she had been plucked from to play the part. Ironically she escaped a few weeks later, and by the time the film premiered as a competition entry in Karlovy Vary - where her performance made her a strong contender for the best actress award - she was on the run and her whereabouts were unknown. A hard hitting black and white drama that explores the origins of "blockers" - Poland's equivalent of America's "Generation X" - the film is a straight-forward piece of film-making by an accomplished director that achieves a gritty realism without any embellishments. Destined to be a prize winner on the international festival circuit, it should also see worldwide television sales although its low-budget, black and white format and depressing subject matter will make it a tough sell theatrically.
The film begins with Tereska as a shy, angelic child in white receiving her first communion to the sounds of a children's choir. However, she soon suffers a harsh collision with the reality of the Polish suburban working-class apartment where she lives when rock- throwing neighbourhood boys shatter her window and her face is scared by the flying glass. While Tereska dreams of becoming a fashion designer, her family background consigns her to a trade school where she learns not only to sew but also to lie and steal.
Her friend Renata (Sobczak, also plucked from reform school for the role) introduces her to cigarettes, alcohol and her first sexual encounters with local boys. At home she finds no comfort or understanding from her mother (Rozniatowska) who is trapped in poverty and a loveless marriage to her alcoholic father (Kiersznowski) a former policemen who has lost his job and hangs out with the local riff-raff on the street.
Her first sexual experience ends in rape after she makes out alone with one of the local boys but she is too alienated to admit what has happened even to herself. The only adult she can relate to is the wheelchair bound neighbour Edzio (Zamachowski) with whom she develops an increasingly sado-masochistic relationship as he invites her to abuse him in return for her kisses. Her fascination and repulsion grow as she progresses from burning him by putting out lighted cigarettes on his unfeeling legs to finally brutally beating him with a metal bar in a senseless crime that is an outlet for her rage.
A remarkable journey from innocence to disillusionment, frustration and hopelessness, Gieter is impressive in the role of Tereska under Glinski's deft direction. If the role is close to her real life story, that still does not take anything away from the sensitivity and emotion she brings to the screen or the very convincing character development which she handles well. A spare, economic telling of the tale without sentimentality or sensationalism makes the film a bleak and insightful vision of the generation growing up in the ugly, communist era high rises around Poland's large cities without religion or ideology to believe in.
Prod cos: TVP SA-Film Agency, Propaganda AG
Int'l Sales: TVP SA-Poltel Entertainment
Prod: Filip Chodzewicz
Scr: Jacek Wyszomirski, Robert Glinski
Cinematography: Petro Aleksowski
Prod des: Elwira Pluta
Ed: Krzysztof Szpetmanski
Main cast: Aleksandra Gieter, Karolina Sobczak, Zbigniew Zamachowski, Malgorzata Rozniatowska, Krzysztof Kiersznowski