Titled after the main character’s name, this film gives a portrait of an older lady who sells second-hand books at Bazar Różyckigo in Warsaw. In an edit of short observational shots, we see the woman interacting with her clients and spending spare time at her stand on drinking, people watching and feeding her cats.
What could otherwise be an unappealing look at the life of the market turns into a mesmerising character sketch thanks to the narration provided by Ms Zofia.
From the very beginning, she frames herself as an integral part of the market which in her view is the best place in the capital city. She praises the variety of different products offered at its stands, which may be in shortage elsewhere.
To illustrate Ms Zofia’s words, Kwiatkowska edits a series of images of old peasant ladies selling eggs, Gipsy women offering solitaire readings, as well as people of different ages selling clothes, shoes, furniture and household appliances.
The lively scenery becomes melancholic when we learn that the city council plans on closing the venue, which over the postwar years has been an emblem of private trade and consumer culture, as well as a capsule of the city’s life.
Together with Ms Zofia, we meet her clients, who represent all walks of life, from young boys, through students and mothers with children, to the elderly looking for literature classics.
Well read in the literature of various sorts, Ms Zofia also appears acquainted with fashions and trends among her clients. She knows that teenage boys are looking for erotic literature and crime stories and that some mothers allow children to read things that aren’t suitable for their age.
When she is on her break, she sips alcohol from a hip flask to stay warm, as her story continues playing off the screen.
Ms Zofia comes across as a confident, rational and intelligent lady, whose life has made her tough enough not only to withstand the cold weather but also to become an energetic and successful entrepreneur.
At the end of the film, once we learn that Ms Zofia is content with where she is and doesn’t expect much more from her life, her figure starts to blend with the crowd.
The last shots of Kwiatkowska’s documentary show Bazar Rozyckiego in a bird-eye view: every stand in every alley looks the same as Ms Zofia’s. Thus, she becomes a Polish everywoman, who found a way to self-fulfillment and relative happiness despite the obstacles she encountered on her life journey. She is a symbolic mistress of survival.