Waves: The beauty of escape
by Laurence Boyce
- KARLOVY VARY 2016: The compelling and accomplished feature debut by Grzegorz Zariczny imbues a somewhat clichéd story with a certain freshness
Grzegorz Zariczny first made an international impact with his wonderfully observed documentary short The Whistle, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. While Zariczny’s background is in documentary, his debut feature, Waves [+see also:
interview: Grzegorz Zariczny
film profile] – having its world premiere in the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival competition – is ostensibly a fiction film, albeit with a heavy dose of realism thrown in.
Waves focuses on two 17-year-old girls, Ania and Kasia, who are studying to be hairdressers in a small Polish town. Both are dealing with fractured relationships with their parents and soon begin to form an intense bond. But Ania’s mother turns up after she has been missing for a year and a half, and soon everything that Ania and Kasia have been working towards seems a lot more distant.
The spirit of the likes of Mike Leigh looms large in Zariczny’s film, with the use of non-professional actors (Anna Kąsek and Katarzyna Kopeć, who give remarkable performances) and a structure that has been informed by much improvisation. What results is a remarkably raw and authentic film about two young girls who have been failed by their parents and want to escape their drab lives. While this story is something of a cliché within the realms of the genre, the performances and Zariczny’s careful direction imbue the proceedings with a certain freshness. The film was shot in September, when the summer light turns into autumnal haze, and – while the situation of the girls is often glum – it presents a time and a place that possess the hope for change.
The irony of the girls’ chosen profession is not lost: to escape, they must become the best hairdressers they can possibly be. They must also help people to escape the drabness of their lives by adding beauty and hope to their world.
Waves is a compelling and accomplished piece of work, and is indicative that Zariczny will be a talent to watch closely over the coming years.