Director: Jacek Borcuch
Starring: Jakub Gierszal, Magdalena Berus, Ángela Molina, Joanna Kulig
Young love may well be the most frequent subject of fiction, be it literature, cinema, or any other medium. There is an intoxication that comes with a chance encounter or fated meeting, and, while the allure still exists, the feeling of closeness can be overwhelming. International cinema has recounted such tales recently to various extremes, from Mia Hansen-Løve’s Goodbye First Love, emphasizing the romance, to Tribeca Film Festival entry brilliantlove, which was later retitled The Orgasm Diaries, evidently emphasizing the physical passion. Jacek Borcuch’s Lasting falls somewhere else entirely, spending much more of its runtime with its couple apart than together.
The very blond couple of Michal (Jakub Gierszal) and Karina (Magdalena Berus) are introduced during a vacation to Spain, where their love quickly becomes clear and their connection seems real. Things quickly fall apart when Michal finds himself confronted by an angry resident whiles scuba diving on his property and accidentally kills the man, sinking his body into the ocean and returning to Poland. Their relationship does not last long, as Karina is overwhelmed and horrified by Michal’s confession and is herself holding on to an monumental piece of information.
The dynamic of the affection shared by Michal and Karina for each other is illustrated in Lasting by showing scenes of them apart, struggling to cope on their own without the presence of the other by their side. The device is only partially effective, since the brief snippets of the couple together at the start of the film aren’t enough to provide a convincing case for their eternal love. Both are miserable apart, yet the thought of them being reunited doesn’t seem, exempting a few moments of bliss, as if it will rectify the situation. Hope may not be lost, but getting these two back together is hardly an involving process.
Lasting is a film that moves at a tedious pace, stressing form over content and lingering on its characters as they process their lives and thoughts internally. The scene in which Michal tells Karina about what he has done is, perhaps unwisely, shown without sound and from a distance, so that all is seen is Karina getting up abruptly and storming out of a restaurant after passionately embracing Michal at the bus station only moments earlier. These developments are meant to be speak for themselves, yet they progress with frustratingly little urgency, with no finite direction in sight.
Additionally, the central event which sets Lasting into motion, Michal’s deadly encounter, feels staged and invented. The progression of a hostile meeting to a panicked, violent situation is extreme and as if it should come from a dream imagined by Michal rather than serve as the film’s catalytic moment. Instead of moving on to the aftermath, extended time is spent with Michal as he attempts to revive his victim and then proceeds to sink him to the bottom of the water. By the time the ordeal is over, it feels as if an eternity has passed.
Deliberate pacing and plot construction can be both effective and powerful, but not in this case. The love story is hardly original, not through any fault of its own, and it does not merit the focus that it gets. The film’s title has some relevance, since the bond between Michal and Karina is indeed lasting, even if it never quite reaches a level of enduring connection. The title is equally applicable to the film itself, which, rather than prove memorable long after its ending, is painfully lasting for the whole of its extremely long 95 minutes.
This Sundance Film Festival Word Cinema Dramatic Competition entry has held several public screenings in Park City thus far, with more scheduled.
Written by Abe Fried-Tanzer