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KARLOVY VARY 2022 Competition

Tomasz Wiński • Director of Borders of Love

“I’m just interested in pain”


- A long-standing couple decide to live out their fantasies – also with other people – in the Polish-born, Czech-based filmmaker’s new effort

Tomasz Wiński • Director of Borders of Love

In Tomasz Wiński’s Borders of Love [+see also:
film review
interview: Tomasz Wiński
film profile
, screening in competition at Karlovy Vary, Hana and Petr (Hana Vagnerová, who also co-wrote the script, and Matyáš Řezníček) are happy together. They share everything – even their sexual fantasies. One time, they decide to go a little further and invite a stranger into their bed. But there is no turning back.

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Cineuropa: There have been lots of films recently about sex and eroticism that weren’t necessarily good, but they gained enormous popularity. Weren’t you afraid someone would lump you in with them?
Tomasz Wiński: I deliberately wanted to be included in this group, and then I wanted to surprise the viewer with the simple fact that this is not some cheap, kitschy soft-porn flick after all. I think this film is quite painful and sad, event unpleasant. We have this very sexy poster, but it’s not just about sex. It’s about communication, emotions, and the limits of honesty and freedom in a relationship.

For the past two years, we have been locked away in bunkers, so we’ve all delved into these hidden corners of our souls. You see a couple whose freedom is shrinking, and sex seems like the only way to escape. She realises that when she is provoking him, telling him about her fantasies, she gains his attention. But she doesn’t say: “Notice me.” She just says: “This guy has a nice arse.” He feels offended by it, but doesn’t show that it hurts him. They get into this whole experiment without really wanting to; they just don’t have the courage to say what they feel. They seem to talk to each other a lot, but it’s just a game of honesty that becomes more and more painful.

He seems ashamed of the fact that he stops liking it at one point.
Because he pushed her into it, in a way. In that bar, at the very beginning, that’s where things start to break. She starts experiencing some very intense things, and he can’t cope mentally. And then he scolds her and becomes a moraliser, which is completely unfair. We are watching the breakdown of a certain patriarchal mentality here. And this liberated woman is slipping away from his control.

When one talks about sex in cinema, it usually gets very serious. In your film, however, there are scenes that are simply embarrassing. Like when the sex is suddenly interrupted by a crying baby, and then you have to talk to your lover’s husband, who was only supposed to watch.
I guess that’s what this film is about: that painful contrast between our fantasies and reality. Czechs [Wiński was born in Poland] have this ability to keep their distance. They are able to see the human aspect of even the most serious topics. I didn’t do a sociological survey before, but Hana, who co-wrote the script, and I mainly talked about our own experiences here. A friend of mine was in a secret swingers’ group: 500 people exchange partners, rank each other and give each other advice. That scene that made you laugh? He experienced it [laughs]. It’s funny because all of these boundaries are actually very individual. There are people who can be happy in an open relationship; they can enjoy such freedoms. Personally, I am not brave enough. I wouldn’t want to risk what I have. It’s fascinating, though, that after working on this film for seven years, I still don’t have the answers.

When you show this couple at the very beginning, still just the two of them, why do they film each other so often?
It’s their form of play, their fetish. They talk to each other via their phone – it’s the third protagonist in this drama. They provoke each other with the camera, with these erotic home videos, knowing perhaps that it would be much more difficult to talk when actually looking each other right in the eye.

You said it’s not a film about sex, but how did you intend to show all of these different encounters, although they are generally not too explicit?
Sex is how they communicate, so it had to be believable. I told the actors that I would do my best to make them feel comfortable, that I would never hurt them, but they couldn’t be ashamed. We had to believe in these emotions, but it was never about getting someone excited.

Stories about couples who want to change their relationships or their sex lives are often sad. Like Eyes Wide Shut, for example.
That’s one of my favourite movies. That scene when [Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise] smoke a joint together is one of the best scenes describing the dynamics of a relationship. We watched about ten of the best modern films about intimacy. However, we were very careful not to copy anyone. I think I’m just interested in pain – in showing people who are so close yet keep hurting each other and can’t actually talk. That’s why this film can seem scary. Afterwards, people can ask themselves: “How honest am I in my relationship?” And they might not like the answer.

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