To study film is often tied with the study of humanity. Whether the truth or fiction, film offers an opportunity for us to speak our stories and gaze into the human soul. Storytelling is one of our most primal instincts and film is one avenue through which we can understand each other a little bit better.
In keeping with this notion, welcome to The Balcony.
Directed by Pawel Lozinski, The Balcony feels as much like a public experiment as it is a piece of cinema. Setting up his camera from his (literal) apartment balcony, Lozinski spends hours recording those that walk by his home, focusing on the conversations that take place and the relationship the develops between himself and those below.
As Lozinski stands upon his perch overlooking his neighborhood, he simply invites life (and its stories) to come to him. As a result, admittedly, the viewer has to commit patiently and invest in this sociological study. Lozinski simply points his camera at the ground and lets it roll, no matter who (or what) may pass him by. Because of this, there is very little narrative flow and the film may grow tiresome quickly to many viewers. That’s not to say that it isn’t fascinating but only to acknowledge that one must be ready for the experience.
Having said this, The Balcony is so unique that those willing to listen will find a treasure trove of secrets unravel before them. Edited and crafted to create a (very) loose narrative structure, the film simply feels like the world unfolding in front of you. And that’s what makes The Balcony feel so honest. With each passing “character”, Lozinski invites them to share their lives with him, unaware of how much information they will be willing to give. For some, the moment feels threatening and they offer very little detail about themselves. However, to others, the camera becomes an opportunity to speak their mind about the meaning of life, faith and their deepest personal issues.
For some, it even becomes a confessional.
An ex-prisoner attempts to get his life together. An elderly woman reflects on the meaning of life. Addicts, mothers, and youth all pass in front of Lozinski’s camera to share their story. In this way, the film becomes an act in listening as subject after subject bares their souls to one another and we are reminded that everybody’s story matters.
Although Lozinski has few protagonists, he has many heroes among them. Balcony is a film that emphasizes the struggles and successes of everyday life and highlights the value of the individual. Although it was completed before Covid, The Balcony seems to take on greater significance too after a period of isolation. This is a project that feels like an invitation to reconnect with those around us and acknowledge their value.
Admittedly, given its slow pacing and open narrative, The Balcony will not be for everyone. However, for those willing to take a walk under this Balcony, they may find unexpected joy in its passersby. Simply by pressing record on his camera, Lozinski reminds us of the importance of those who are right in front of them by celebrating their stories in all their beautiful brokenness. (And, in the end, the viewer may also remember the value of their own story as well.)
The Balcony is available on MUBI now.