“Don’t ask if you don’t want to hear lies.”
Layered minimalism paints an oft times grim portrait of 40-something Edyta who, arrives in Warsaw and quickly runs through her cash after staying in hotels. With Edyta’s money gone, she turns to stealing food from grocery stores and, eventually, she resorts to internet dating. During these meet-ups, all arranged online, Edyta conspires to slip narcotics into her date’s drink rendering them harmless and none the wiser. As they sleep, she makes use of their homes to wash, to eat, and occasionally, frees them from whatever cash or valuables they’ve left laying about.
In a Bedroom has garnered attention for its seemingly seamy theme but, make no mistake. The film has very little to do with sex.
While director Tomasz Wasilewski’s use of hand held cameras and natural lighting lend an inherently personal feel to In a Bedroom, the core themes of the film revolve around intimacy, desire, identity. It’s never really spelled out for the audience whether Edyta is on the lam from some greater misdeed or has fled from an abusive lover. This sort of ambiguity has an intoxicating way about it, leaving its audience enthralled or disgruntled. If you’re the kind of filmgoer who doesn’t need every plot point spelled out for you, if you don’t mind (and maybe even enjoy) using your imagination to fill in a few blanks, you’re going to enjoy this film. I mean seriously enjoy it. I know I did.
The film’s sparing use of dialog is noteworthy given the richness and complexity of its characters. Performances by Kataryzna Herman (Edyta) and Tomasz Tyndyk (Patryk) are powerful, nuanced. At any moment, you feel as though Edyta is going to self-implode when confronted with any truly authentic intimacy, whether it be physical or emotional. She spends these moments in flight, running with an abandon that is wholly animalistic until she is drained and left heaving in tears.
Edyta spends the film trying to conceal those parts of herself that make her most vulnerable. This is a free pass for the audience to accept Edyta as a sympathetic character, one for whom we become willing to forgive almost any transgression. She lies about her age, her name, the length of time she’s been in Warsaw. She’s homeless, penniless and has turned to stealing from men she’s drugged in order to carve out an existence. Sleeping in her car, or on park benches, we watch as she washes in a fountain and urinates behind trees. The effort Edyta exerts to remain in motion, and as anonymous as possible, is exhausting, not only to her but to the audience as well. And while it’s clear she doesn’t enjoy this way of living, it’s obvious that she finds it better than what she’s left behind. A stark realization that gives the film an edginess that, sadly, is nearly impossible to sustain.
When she meets Patryk, a 35 year old photographer, something sparks between them. Despite her best efforts, Edyta finds herself inextricably drawn to him. As the two become closer, Patryk’s interest becomes problematic for Edyta. Irritated by his incessant questions, Edyta laughs and says, “don’t ask if you don’t want to hear lies.” In a way, Edyta is saying this to us, to the audience. It’s part threat, part defensive insult, cast at those who would judge her, her actions.
In the film’s only moment of true physical intimacy, Wasilewski drowns the scene in red. Patryk and Edyta stand facing one another. Only Patryk removes his clothes. Only Patryk is willing to bare himself. Edyta remains distant, at arm’s length, although it’s clear she wants there to be more between them. She flees. It’s a masterful moment of tenderness, of desire that ends with her decision to return home. Is it time for her to face her demons?
From the film’s womb-like beginnings in small, well-appointed hotel rooms, to the tomb-like feel of the endless nights in which Edyta struggles to survive, In a Bedroom paints a stark portrait of intimacy and vulnerability. For a debut feature, writer/director Tomasz Wasilewski proves he will be one to watch.
Where is it showing: Festival Scope for In a Bedroom