Andrzej Jakimowski’s Zmruż oczy (Squint Your Eyes) is a lovely, warm, leisurely behavioral comedy with a number of jaw-droppingly beautiful shots, including one of an eagle in the sky, a can tied to one of its legs—a failed attempt to keep it put in the back of a truck en route to a veterinarian. Like most everything in this post-Soviet Polish film, the shot refers to a natural need for freedom. The animal’s caretaker is a ten-year-old girl, Mala, who doesn’t grasp that the reason why her “pet” has stopped eating is that it wants to be free.
The central relationship is between the caretaker of the dilapidated remnants of a co-operative farm (a former teacher who has fled the city and, in a sense, the present), and Mala, whose rich parents keep trying to get her back home. But she keeps running away to the caretaker. Don’t worry; there’s no sexual relationship here. Squint Your Eyes isn’t that sort of film.
What I love most about this film, besides its gentle nature and its love of children, is its refusal to connect narrative dots; rather, it leaves us off in a remote place whose several odd, funny, humane characters, including Mala, thoroughly engross and delight us. Lots of times we haven’t a clue as to what precisely is going on, but, relaxing into all this without anxiety, we simply enjoy the people.
Budgetary restrictions, I have read, required only single takes. Everything in this film feels spontaneous.
Squint Your Eyes is available on DVD. The color cinematography (by Adam Bajerski and Pawel Smietanka) is gorgeous, and all the performances charm.
Tags: east european cinema