Karlovy Vary 2022 Review: BORDERS OF LOVE Explores Brave New Non-Monogamous World
Polish-born Czech-based producer and filmmaker Tomasz Wiński has been preparing his feature-length debut Borders of Love for some time. Largely misunderstood by the funding institutions due to a provocative topic, the form took over the content in the eyes of decision-makers. Wiński aimed to explore the state of present relationships through the lens of non-monogamous partnerships.
His provocative look at non-conventional lifestyles premiered at the largest Czech film gathering. Furthermore, Wiński accompanied the premiere of his film by publishing a memorandum joining the Czech New Intimacy, a movement of the youngest Czech filmmakers and their "rage against the (domestic cinematic) machine".
Wiński attracted publicity and acclaim with the short film George The Dog, Refugee. Two bored girls that share an apartment welcome a stranger who pretends he is a dog and gets mistreated as such. The power dynamic goes off the rails soon and the BDSM role play unearths the girls´ characters. Borders of Love follows a similar pattern as the original agreement of an open relationship starts tearing apart the central couple beyond the point of return.
Hana and Petr are a regular couple who feels like their relationship has lost the carnal spark. An accidental sharing of erotic fantasies kickstarts the lusting and sexual tension. However, it turns out to be a rapidly evaporating quick fix. They fool around and Petr blurts out he would be okay if Hana went out with another guy. He even encourages her to approach a stranger as they are sitting in a café discussing new sexual horizons. When Hana does that, he seems taken aback yet does not intervene.
The director who co-wrote the script with Hana Vagnerová who portrays Hana continues to observe how the central couple enacts the fantasies of unrestrained sexual fantasies. Petr and Hana gradually explore the hidden world of non-monogamous relationships and learn to live with the outcomes.
Despite the spicy topic that tackles threesomes, acknowledged cuckolding, swingers and other configurations of partner swapping, Borders of Love is foremost a psychological drama. And it´s a psychological drama in the vein of Oscar Wilde´s aphorism "There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it".
The director does not follow in the path of Gaspar Noé´s Love, quite the opposite. Borders of Love focuses on the psychology of a relationship and those involved. Contrary to the popular notion, it is Hana who starts running wild and losing the solid ground under her feet.
She is even likened to a junkie when the relationship opens. She takes full benefit of the new world of opportunities and gets carried away. Petr remains more restrained and he soon starts thirsting for more purpose not lust in the relationship.
Borders of Love is never vulgar or pornographic, always provocative and only slightly erotic. Unlike Hana, Wiński does not allow himself to get carried away and remains at implications. A scene in an underground sex club comes close to the Noé territory however the director does not go overboard exploiting the situation for the sake of a cheap controversy, awkward or otherwise stomach-churning moment.
The director managed to cast well-known Czech actors with whom the local audience is familiar from mainstream fare and sets them up in a saucy and spice situation. The casting choices will however appreciate only viewers familiar with Czech mainstream and arthouse production, it won´t translate outside the bubble of Czech film aficionados.
Borders of Love hails the young generation of Czech cinema as a full-blooded Euro arthouse not encased in its own provinciality. Despite the controversial central topic, Wiński´s feature-length debut remains tasteful and non-judgmental while mapping the variety of choices and personalities that are making those unorthodox choices.
Borders of Love won the FIPRESCI Prize for the Best Film in the Crystal Globe competition at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.