In 1978, gynaecologist and sexologist Michalina Wisłocka fought against censorship to publish her book, The Art of Loving. When it finally saw the light of day, it quickly became the most widely-read Polish handbook on sex, sexuality, and eroticism. Now, a screen adaptation is bringing new attention to Wisłocka’s story, still relevant in today’s Poland.
After communist rule collapsed, Wisłocka was largely forgotten by the public. However, her legacy has been revived in recent years: in 2014, writer Violetta Ozminkowski published the first biography of Wisłocka; in 2016, a new edition of The Art of Loving was released; and in 2017, Wisłocka’s autobiography was finally published. The latter inspired a film adaptation, The Art of Loving: The Story of Michalina Wisłocka, directed by Polish filmmaker Maria Sadowska, now available on streaming giant Netflix.
The Art of Loving delves deep into the difficulties of publishing the book, as the author finds herself caught amid ongoing tensions between the Catholic Church and socialist ideology in 1960s and 70s Poland. Meanwhile, based on select information from her autobiography, the film also follows subplots from Wisłocka’s private life: her marriage and extramarital affairs, at times at odds with the conventional gender roles and sex practices her book promotes, which are now largely excused as a “product of their time”.
While some rereadings argue that Wisłocka’s book was not as progressive as it was once thought to be, the film received wide critical acclaim in Poland and abroad, proving that her legacy continues to be relevant in contemporary Poland. In a country where abortion is tightly restricted and ultra-conservative values are on the rise, the film ultimately poses the uncomfortable question: how would The Art of Loving be received if it were published today?
Watch The Art of Loving: The Story of Michalina Wisłocka on Netflix.