Unloved tells a familiar tale of one of the most repeated clashes throughout history: the chauvinistic male commitophobe vs. the paranoid helpless female, clinging on to a hopeless and loveless relationship. New it is not; relatable, it is.
A polish film by Janusz Nasfeter, Niekochana tells the story of Noemi (Elzbieta Czyzeweska), a young Jewish girl looking for closure, remembering her turbulent relationship with the free spirited and unsettling Kamil (Janusz Guttner). Whilst the present is set in the few days before the eruption of World War II, most of the film is set amidst flashbacks. When we do see Noemi in the present, it is clear she is wearing the emotional scars of her past.
The pair’s relationship is anything but happy. Noemi, desperate to be loved, asks Kamil to promise he’ll never leave her. She repeatedly asks him where he’s going, is paranoid he’ll never return, and demands to know his every move. Her insecurities and feelings of isolation are reflected constantly in the mirrors scattered throughout the film. In return, feeling imprisoned and smothered, Kamil’s responses are non-committal, referring to cigarettes instead and deflecting any questions that require certain answers. Often photographed behind bars, obstacles and within frames, his feeling of entrapment is made as obvious through camera work as it is through his words.
Unfortunately, the extremities of the two personalities leave you sympathising with neither protagonist. The title ‘Niekochana’ literally translates as ‘The Girl Unloved’ and therefore suggests your empathy should lie with Noemi. However after the umpteenth time she asks Kamil where he’s going and if he’ll be back, you’re about ready to give her a good slap and tell her to get a grip. Meanwhile Kamil’s callous and cruel attitude doesn’t put you in his corner either. So where does this leave us? Are we supposed to care about these two pathetic individuals who refuse to realise they’re wrong for each other and keep coming back for more torture? I certainly didn’t.
The film itself isn’t too bad. The director, Janusz Nasfester, manages to slip in some genuinely attractive photography that’s pleasing on the eye and leaves you exploring the frame; a rare treat when, in today’s cinema, you’re only asked to see the big explosions. The pleasant shots make up for the messy jump cuts that leave you feeling slightly discombobulated at parts. Also, Czyzeweska and Guttner play well against each other, and, although their characters are unlikeable, you respect their efforts at giving them some depth.
A fairly unknown film that doesn’t necessarily belong in the DVD collection, Unloved at least manages to represent a common relationship accurately, where neither individual comes out of it the hero, and love really doesn’t conquer all.
Best bit: Noemi’s mental breakdown at the end, and her childish skip down the train tracks.
Janusz Guttner went on to appear in a number of British TV shows including Soldier, Soldier (1996), Kavanagh QC (1997) and Touching Evil (1998.) He named his son Kamil after his character in Unloved, and then went on to father this critic.