"Hope": Angels Do Have Sex

in 9th Lecce Festival of European Cinema

by Lydia Maslova

In Stanislaw Mucha’s feature debut Hope (Nadzieja) nobody talks about hope and it is never clearly explained what kind of hope it is. Maybe it’s just the desperate hope to live forever, despite the knowledge that everybody has to die. But the screenwriter Krzysztof Piesiewicz leaves enough freedom for the viewer to choose any other interpretation, any personal version of hope. Stanislaw Mucha insists only that “hope is something that cannot be excluded from life”.                

One may suppose also, paying attention to some religious connotations in this movie that “hope” is an equivalent of “fate”, but it feels more subtle and hard to define. Hope begins with the tragic death that seems to destroy any hope and forever exclude it from the life of the hero Franciszek whom we see for the first time as an angel-like child. Death is always a tragedy, but now it’s extremely unfair and depressing: the young, beautiful and loving mother of the boy is dying in a brutal car accident trying to save her little son’s life and in some sense sacrificing herself. After 20 years, Franciszek has grown into an angel-like young man with long curly blond hair and sad thoughtful eyes. He makes his living washing windows, his father had left his brilliant career as a musician after his wife’s death and now plays the organ in a church, and Franciszek’s older brother, who had also seen his mother’s terrible death and couldn’t overcome this trauma, is in jail where he’s constantly trying to kill himself. He has lost his hope long ago and life doesn’t have for him any value and sense until the younger brother makes an attempt to return him to life even if only for a short time.              

The semi-detective storyline starts when the painting “Angel with a Violin” is stolen from the church where the hero’s father is working, and Franciszek, being an accidental witness of the crime, makes a videotape. Strangely enough, instead of going to the police, he begins to blackmail the thief, a corrupt art expert and gallery owner. Even more strange, Franciszek doesn’t want any money, he only wants the painting to be returned to its place. The painting itself seems pretty ugly, nevertheless it’s really precious, not only in the material aspect (for the thief who tries to sell it), but, more importantly, morally and spiritually, for Franciszek. He is the main character in this film that embodies the hope; he even has the letters HOPE on the license number of the car he drives — an old green Renault.            

Hope, like the hero himself, is longing to fly above the surface of the earth and above the average level of symbolic thinking, but it’s not always easy, neither for the protagonist nor for the filmmakers. To prove that he is an angel living among normal people, Franciszek jumps with a parachute every now and then to the despair of his girlfriend, asking him not to risk his life. This metaphor of angel’s flight is a little too obvious, and so is the hero’s identification with the angel in the stolen painting — being asked if the angel is a man or a woman, Franciszek answers that is hard to say because there are always difficulties with the sex of angels. 

Happily the film manages to solve this problem, and finally receives an additional meaning, getting close not only to religious fate, but also to love, and not only in the spiritual sense, but in the physical as well, when the manlike angel has spontaneous sex with his girlfriend on the parachute that previously served as his wings but is now sheets and blankets.