Desire for Beauty (Gaudêncio, 2013) is a schizophrenic mess of a documentary that also happens to be about an important and deeply complicated topic. Following four Polish people as they pursue plastic-surgery solutions to their dilemmas of self-esteem, the subject matter should be more than enough to carry the length of the film, particularly as it’s supplemented with interviews by actress Agata Kulesza (from last year’s Academy Award-winning film Ida) and conversations with a variety of people ranging from therapists to philosophers to models, who all have differing but equally complex perspectives on what it means to be beautiful.
UK-based filmmaker Pawel Pawlikowski returns to the country of his birth with a film that explores the persistence of the war in 1960s Poland. Shot in Academy ratio and soft black and white, the cinematography by Ryszard Lenczewski and Lukasz Zal is beautiful, capturing the stark landscapes and emotional weight of the historical period. The setting and subject matter seem to give Pawlikowski renewed impetus at an important stage in his career and the result is a measured, sombre film that succeeds in evoking the intricate world of its central figures.