The picture at the center of Still Life in Lodz is not so much the focus of the film, but rather the thing that gets the story moving. The film begins when Lilka Elbaum returns to Poland after four decades to see the painting of the title. The painting had hung in the apartment where she grew up in from the 1890s until the contents of the apartment were sold. It went to the home of a woman that Elbaum knew. Accompanied by two friends with ties to the city, she makes the journey to Poland to see the painting and to come to terms with the city and the country of her birth as well.
Going into STILL LIFE IN LODZ I thought this was going to be certain type of straight forward documentary about a woman and her painting, however it wasn’t long into the film that it became apparent that what I thought the film was not really what the film is about. The film is really a portrait of a city and country over roughly a century of time. To be certain the tale is not always front and center but it is always there as the events in the lives of Elbaum and her fellow travelers reveal the truer history of Poland. For example many people I know were shocked recently with reports about the rising level of Anti-Semitism is the country but as Elbaum and the film makes clear even in the 1960s it was in full bloom with the government arguing that Jews were not Poles. The result is a wake up call.
Moving at brisk pace the film covers a great deal of material and it gives us a great deal to unpack about history, about memory and about life in general. There is so much here that I am still turning the pieces over in my head.
I like this film a great deal. Its so good that I want to go back and revisit it.