GLITTER. Netflix series about sex workers in communist Poland
Glitter is a new Polish series offer from Netflix. The ten episodes follow three women in the 1970s who provide sex services to achieve their goals. They are looking for love and independence at a time when Poland was just opening up to the west. Glitter visually shines, but the plot is lacking.
The series tells the story of three women who share a luxury hotel in Sopot. The oldest of the characters, 38-year-old Helena (very good Magdalena Popławska), is already experienced in her industry and known for providing the highest quality sexual services. She has a well-furnished apartment and the best foreign records, and thanks to her status, she can choose her clients herself. One day, however, SB officer Adam (Łukasz Simlat) orders her to establish a relationship with Tomas (Folco Marchi), a French journalist of a left-wing newspaper staying in Poland. Helena meets him in a room in a luxury hotel in Sopot, bristling with listening devices.
Pola (Wiktoria Filus), younger than Helena, dreams of her own cosmetics business – she spends the money she earns on providing sexual services to develop her own shampoo brand. She is raising her son alone, and her mother does not approve of what she does. Trying to achieve her goal, Pola is forced to pay bribes to officials. When one of them wants compensation in kind from her, the angry girl gives him a black eye. For the attack on the official, her concession is withdrawn, which Pola will desperately try to regain, getting involved in complicated relationships.
Marysia (the great Matilda Giegżno, known for her role as Gabi Wejman in Klangor), the youngest of the three and a student, wants – above all – to have fun in life. She is just looking for her way, and prostitution is a way for her to earn an easy income during the crazy summer in Sopot. What all three heroines, at different stages of their lives, have in common is self-confidence, independence and a desire for freedom.
The image of prostitution in the cinema is always problematic and rarely does justice to the women who work in this way. It either focuses on showing the heroines only as victims (although, of course, this is a common case in reality), or presents their work in an idealized and sometimes even completely unrealistic way, as in Pretty Woman. Glitter tries to do something in between – the heroines manifest their freedom to some extent, but they are still entangled in relationships with men and, unfortunately, often dependent on them. The series was directed by Anna Kazejak, Marek Lechki, Rafał Skalski and Julia Kolberger; the main screenwriter of the series is Aleksandra Chmielewska, for whom it is a screenwriting debut. Glitter is visually captivating, story-wise – not necessarily.
The narrative sometimes drifts and goes nowhere, and some episodes seem to be overly long, not moving the action forward, but also not offering the viewer anything in return. The main characters, so important and with great potential, lack depth. After all, we seem to know very little about them. Other heroes, especially the supporting ones, are also somewhat neglected – their threads appear and disappear, as if the creators forgot about them again and again.
For this reason, I have very mixed feelings about Glitter. On the one hand, this series is not very engaging, on the other – it is the most interesting picture of Polish People’s Republic period in contemporary Polish cinema for years. This favorite historical period of Polish filmmakers is usually presented on the screen in a depressing entourage of gray, mud and prefabricated blocks of flats. Glitter shows us a completely different truth about this era – the series is full of colors, warm light, beautifully lit frames. Such a view is extremely refreshing in the deluge of uniform gray images of Polish People’s Republic that fill this country’s cinematography.
It is visually stunning and extremely stylish. The cinematography of Paweł Flis do the job here, and the whole thing is complemented by an original soundtrack. The costumes and stage design are top-notch – the costumes, colorful furniture, interiors and even the food are delightful (Robert Harna worked on the set as a food stylist!). So it’s a shame that the creators didn’t manage to get more out of the presented story. The concept of creating a series around sex work in Poland in the 1970s is an extremely good idea, it’s a pity that the script didn’t quite live up to it.