There was a time when people made suicide out of love. Not only teenagers like Romeo and Juliette, but also mature ones like Anna Karenina. But Afonia is not Julia or Anna.
Afonia is older then Tolstoy's heroine. Her husband is just an ex-boxer, ex-inmate of a Nazi concentration camp and almost ex-living person as he is paralyzed after an accident. Her daughter is already married. And although Afonia's name is Russian, she is Polish. The only thing both heroines share is love to a strong, handsome and addictive man. A Russian man.
It wouldn't be a real, vivid Afonia if not Grazyna Blecka-Kolska. In the movie she is a nurse. She is her husband's voice. She feeds, she builds, she protects. And she finds time for her passions: at first bees and a movie camera, than - her lover. Blecka-Kolska managed to breathe life into the character. Her performance is sharp but well balanced. Not a single sign of mannerism that occurred sometimes in previous movies by Jan Jakub Kolski – Grazyna Blecka-Kolska.
Actress shines so bright that the weaknesses of "Afonia and the bees" stay in the background. That is for example a story of Afonia's daughter and son-in-law, which is left quite in the middle between being a brief mention and an important motif. Or the director's choice to play with the continuity editing. On the other hand "Afonia and the bees" is as much a movie about love as it is about History. And history repeats itself. The main story takes place in 1953 – the year of Stalin's death. Afonia and her husband may live in a quiet, abandoned place, but the big world will come and visit them to ask questions about the old times.
And here comes the best. One can watch "Afonia and the bees" as a simple, though complex, love story. But in good movies things are not what they seem to be. Afonia means "aphonia" – loss of voice. Afonia is also a nickname of a man's name Afanazy. Isn't Afonia a bit like a man herself? She was all alone when she had to take care of her young daughter, her home and her bees during the war. Now she makes man's decisions and she is not afraid of taking what or whom she wants. It may sounds old-fashioned, but are we really so liberated? Some men still don't want to speak about love - or we, women hear only incoherent babble. And some women still pay the highest price for they courage at a love field While the world remains silent.
That "world" is bright and somehow peaceful in Kolski's movie. (The credit goes to cinematographer Krzysztof Ptak and his crew). It is not that kitschy-catchy beauty of Jeunet's "Amelie" or Burton's "Big Fish". It is more like a picture from a zen master's mind. It is beautiful just because it is. So with Blecka-Kolska's one of her best performances, very well supported by her partners - Mariusz Saniternik as her husband and Andrei Bilanov as her lover - you just have to watch "Afonia and the bees".
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