Telling at the first glance a tragic but rather simple story, this movie touches on an important subject - the crisis of the traditional concept of masculinity in a contemporary rapidly changing society.
The film tells a story of two adult brothers, where the older one -Alfred, represents conservative values that traditional society triesto preserve and the younger one, Jurek, who just came back from the USwhere he has received his education, reflects the undergoing socialchange. While Alfred is trying to cope with the social stigma afterbeing unable to stand by his brother against violence the authortakes on the discussion on renegotiating the idea of masculinity in acontemporary society.
Throughout the movie the two figures are constructed aroundoppositions. Already in the opening scene, the viewer learns about thesubtle difference between bravery and courage - courageous behaviorfirst and foremost avoids exposing yourself or others to unnecessarydanger. This idea later plays a crucial role as a distinguishingfeature in defining the notion of masculinity in the movie. The traditional concept of masculinity has at its center the abilityto create a family, traditionally understood as composed of a man, awoman and at least one child, and to protect it. Next to it andpartially as a result comes, however, inability to communicate orexpress feelings even towards the closest people, as well as remainingdistant and estranged when facing troubles.
Alfred feels silently condemned by a judgemental and oppressivesociety as well as his closest family. The immaturity of a traditionalman is most clearly expressed when he tries to repent his sins byfinding the guy who beat up and seriously injured his brother andrevenge on him. Usually self-confident and very strict, he thinks thisis what is expected from him, this is what he should do as a man - bebrave and prepared to face violence.
On the contrary, the « new man » - Jurek, is conscious of his feelingsand emotions, can differentiate between bravery and courage and standup to violence but only for a good cause, e. g. the dignity of a woman. He is not only able to procreate but also to take care of his childrenin the absence of the mother.
Therefore, the characters of the two brothers appear to me a bittendential. Jurek seems to have almost no flaws and pays bitterly forhis convictions and righteousness. While Alfred is severely condemnedand stigmatised not only by the society but also by his family andhimself. He seems not to have managed to live up to the requirementsof his own moral code. Although a bit simplified, these two charactersillustrate very well the current tendencies and change in perceptionof masculinity in a contemporary Polish society.
It would be a legitimate question to ask who is the victim in thismovie. Jurek is unquestionably the victim of violence and hisbrother’s cowardice. But equally Alfred is a victim of the oppressivesociety which shaped his idea of masculinity refusing to defineweaknesses as acceptable and potentially constructive in one’s innerdevelopment.
by : Katarzyna Sobieraj