(director/writer: Lea Glob; screenwriter: Andreas Boggild Monies; cinematographer: Lea Glob; editors: Andreas Boggild Monies, Thor Ochsner; music: Jonas Struck; cast: Apolonia Sokol, Lea Glob, Oksana Shachko; Runtime: 116; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Sidsel Siersted; HBO Max; 2022-Denmark/Poland/France-in French, Danish, Polish, Russian & English, with English subtitles)

“A poignant, tense and unconventional drama reflecting on the difficulties of a modern-day female artist.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Danish filmmaker Lea Glob (“Olmo & the Seagull”/”Venus”) directs and co-writes with Andreas Boggild Monies this probing artworld biopic of the Danish-Polish-French artist Apolonia Sokol, who was born in 1988 and grew up in Denmark and France. It was filmed over a period of 13 years, from the time the filmmaker, around the same age as Apolinia, met the budding artist in 2009 when her film school in Paris assigned her a project to make a film and she used Apolinia as her subject. At the time, Apolinia was living in the underground theater (the Lavoir Moderne Parisien) of her actor bohemian parents.

The intimate film of the attractive figurative painter depicts her adventurous life up to the present, when she’s about to turn 35 and looks forward to making it big commercially as a woman artist doing things her own way.

Apolonia’s mom fled at age 18 from communist Poland after living in Belarus and being sent to Stalin’s Siberia. When in Paris, her mom and dad founded an underground theater, where they lived and worked. Apolonia would graduate in 2015 from the elite École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris.

After graduation because of her love for the underground theater, she works to save the family theater from eviction by fixing it up and making it a creative place that performers loved to work in. When finally evicted, she shares a small apartment with her mom and a young homeless asylum seeker, Oksana, a Ukrainian feminist activist who becomes her “soulmate,” girlfriend and muse.

Apolinia leaves Paris for America and works in Dan Colen’s studio in NYC. She then goes to L.A. and is sponsored by the wealthy South African art collector Stefan Simchowitz, who the N.Y. Times dubbed as the art world’s patron saint. For his patronage, Apolonia was required to produce 10 paintings a month. This industrial approach to art didn’t suit her and she soon cut ties with him. She then forms a group of artists who think like she does. She also blasts the art world for its hypocrisy in partnering with this phony art lover patron, who was a capitalist pig trying to use the vulnerability of young artists in need of financial aid to profit off their work by buying and exploiting them.

In the more invigorating and focused third act, Apolonia does well by going on her own path in Paris and becoming a more sophisticated artist.

The film uses a double focus on the artist’s life–telling about the artist’s active outward life and her creative inner thoughts, as the artist can’t see the difference between her identity and her autobiographical art work, thereby the fitting title of APOLINIA, APOLINIA.
By the time the film ends, the artist is not just the filmmaker’s subject but a confidant who comforted the filmmaker during the time of her difficult pregnancy that endangered her life.

It’s a poignant, tense and unconventional drama reflecting on the difficulties of a modern-day female artist. It could have been a better film if its early parts were as coherent as its later parts.

It played at the London Film Festival.

REVIEWED ON 12/29/2023  GRADE: B