Thanks to India’s pioneer world cinema movie channel UTV World Movies, I stumbled upon a brilliant Polish movie Your Name is Justine. It is a heart wrenching story of a young girl from Poland who is pushed into the racket of Prostitution by a man who pretends to be her boyfriend. The movie released in 2006 and it traces the story of Justine as she fights to keep her sanity amidst the violence and heartlessness surrounding the world into which she is forced.
The story is quite simple and told many times, the folly of blind teenage love, the pitfalls and betrayal that it may have. But the powerful screenplay and a tightly held script doesn’t let the attention of the viewers waver, instead it’s a breathless wait for the anticipated to happen, hoping fervently that it doesn’t. It serves as an eye opener to the fact that such vicious rackets exist in first world countries also and that out of the 200,000 women sold for the flesh trade everyday 15,000 are from Poland. The movie doesn’t seek an end, Human Trafficking continues on a fervent pace even today. It seeks to make aware, to warn and also appeal to the audience to sympathize with the plight of these women.
The protagonist Mariola is played by a new comer Anna Cieslak . She is a carefree teenager who stays with her grandmother in a small village. She falls in love with a young out-of-town man who is not what he appears to be. He lures her into running away with him under the promise of a good life in the city, but her innocence is taken advantage of as she is sold for prostitution when they reach Germany. The plot follows her painful journey as she is raped, beaten, and starved to break her down.
Unlike the typical Bollywood rape scenes which make the heinous act seem pleasurable, the ones in this movie bring out the terrifying pain, both physical and mental so sincerely that the viewers almost cringe. There is nothing erotic in this movie nor does it pander to any pornographic fetish. Mariola fights her battle alone and has to make several compromises on her way to freedom. She goes back to her village but things don’t get back to normal as she walks around in frigid silence recuperating from her trauma but cursed to live with its stigma forever.
The title aptly captures the most important aspect of the movie. ‘Your’ Name is Justine’ points towards the fact that this new identity is forced on her and she doesn’t wish to be a part of it. Her polish name Mariola is forgotten and in moments of utter despair she reminds herself of this name and that she is from Poland in a bid to retain her real identity. She cannot even speak in her native tongue and must use English or German for any communication. Her whole being is twisted out of its original shape. Anna Cieslak plays the role of Mariola with great aplomb and portrays effectively the numbing sensation resulting from a nightmare like this. The woman is conditioned to her new life of exploitation and unquestioning servitude by violence and sexual molestation. This changes her forever, not only in a physical way sense but also scars her psychologically.
Director Franco de Pena has dealt with the subject without any nudity and great sensitivity which is almost brutal. The cinematography keeps up the mood of utter disdain and hopelessness. The choleric yellow wallpaper peeling away from the walls symbolizes Mariola’s breaking self. The dark and dingy surroundings are an indication of what this world has to offer her, death and decay. One of the most moving scenes of the movie is when Mariola calls out for help through a small window but there is nobody around to hear her. Later even her clients refuse to help her even after realizing that she is being forced into this trade. The scenes are painfully realistic and at times I just had to turn away from them and gasp for a little breath. The story has the major element of verisimilitude in its telling and it’s not all’s well that ends well. There isn’t a definite closure and like real life the issues don’t just magically resolve themselves.
Though the movie depicts realistically the ordeal of Mariola who is sold off, it becomes quite melodramatic at times. The rape scenes are too many and it is difficult to endure them because of their intensity. Except Ciselak all other actors do just about ok on the acting front and the attention never goes away from the female lead. I presume this was a deliberate design of the directors. The end may seem quite unsatisfying to many viewers but the beauty of the device of realism is not spoilt by making it happily ever after.
In my opinion the movie thumps its message very emphatically and serves as a wakeup call for many of us complacent in our comparatively easy existence. It’s a must watch for all the lovers of world cinema as it is a fine example of world-class craftsmanship.
*The original title in Polish
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