Urszula Antoniak: “How Much Do We Need To Know In Order To Trust Someone?”

Urszula Antoniak: “How Much Do We Need To Know In Order To Trust Someone?”

We continue to pursue our journey to discover the films which are at the core of our TOGETHER ALONE season. Today we present an ode of privacy and unspoken boundaries coming from Urszula Antoniak. 

Director Urszula Antoniak sets to challenge the audience with the issue of trust and the lack of it, which continuously pervade our digitalised culture. So, she poses a legitimate question: “How much do we need to know about a person to trust and empathise with him or her?”

With an urgency to share important human relationships on a very basic level, the director unravels two characters with no past, nor inner motivations – what we call tabula rasa. Though in the film, like in real life, she urges us to guess, rather than know what motivates the characters. In the absence of a complex human psychology we witness instant reactions and we are invited to fill in the blanks. An enigmatic young Dutch woman, played by Lotte Verbeek, accepts a room offered by an older solitary widower, (Stephen Rea), in exchange for her work in his garden. This is on the understanding that any type of meaningful connection is strictly off-limits. Their relationship is mirroring the non-verbal communication as a different form of loneliness they recognise in each other. She refuses to give her name or answer any personal questions and is uninterested in anyone else’s life story. 

The film evolves into a poem-like cinematic experience, a meditation on the tension between companionship and seclusion, affection and independence. With a masterful use of silence and editing we feel the empty spaces between interactions. Nothing Personal is an unusual exploration of loneliness and a very articulated message about individuals. Two characters that usually prefer to be alone, or at least don’t mind it, recognise this quality in each other and, paradoxically, create a deep bond. Still the story consciously refuses to motivate the action or to present the past giving us enough visual hints to understand there is no definite answer. As quiet as it looks, the closing scene is shocking and evocative.

The spiritual dimension of solitude is remarkable in her film and very intriguing, as it involves our own near-wordless relationships. Keeping a mutual ‘nothing personal’ behaviour between human beings sometimes proves to be very difficult. And, the people who choose to live a solitary life usually retreat within themselves, but even in their comforting pace of silence and lonely walks, can they escape the yearning for a connection with another soul?


Read the next article with Jan Ole Gerster here.