One of the biggest attractions of recent days was obviously the visit of Jerzy Stuhr and his two meetings with viewers: one on Saturday after showing Three Colours: White (1994) and the other on Sunday after Tomorrow's Weather (2003). The first meeting was devoted to Krzysztof Kieślowski and his cooperation with Stuhr. He outlined how they worked together throughout the years, starting with the film The Scar (1976), then the cult movie Camera Buff (1979), later Decalogue Ten (1989) and finally the above mentioned White. One must also mention the unfinished project of prematurely deceased Kieślowski – Big Animal (2000).
Regarding the latter project, Stuhr decided to expand a very short novel, which was good for a short film, into a full feature film. During our meeting in Dublin he explained, that he was thinking for a long time how to express the poetic and grotesque atmosphere in a movie. Being mostly a theatre actor, he argues that in theatre one has more ways at disposal in order to express poetic ideas or metaphysics. He asked two people to help him solve the problem: Paweł Edelman (cinematographer) and Monika Sajko-Gradowska (production designer), hoping for unconventional ideas. And so they were: use black and white film and place the story in the mountains. Although monochromatic effect is still widely used in music videos for instance, it is created mostly in post-production and the film is originally shot in colour. In this case, Paweł Edelman meant the actual black and white film; much more expensive and very rare. The other idea (place the action in mountains) was unconventional when one thinks about the main hero – the camel, which in nature is rather seen on a desert. Regarding the camel, Stuhr had some interesting facts, too. The film crew had to hire two camels from a circus, because in owner's opinion the lonely camel would feel sad. Stuhr was joking that the crew themselves were not allowed to bring their wives for shooting in Tymbark, Poland, but the camel had to have its companion nearby. Another set of problems was the general difficulty to steer animals into doing what you need. For example, it's simple to write in the screenplay: “the camel stops and drinks water from a puddle”, while in reality it's a pain to shot such a scene, knowing that the animal can live several weeks without water.
The whole session was translated into English for non-Poles (there was quite a few of them) – pausing for translation unfortunately broke the rhythm of speech and took some time. There was not enough time for more in-depth story.
A part of Stuhr's monologue (8 MB), sorry for shaking hands, but I made it at big zoom.
Sunday session with Jerzy Stuhr was mostly devoted to questions from the public, so I used this occassion to touch on an issue bothering me for a long time. I'm talking about the role of Artur Barciś in Decalogue – he appears in almost all parts as a mystical figure, maybe something like a guardian angel, though there are other interpretations as well. However, Barciś does not appear in the last, tenth part. I was curious if Mr. Stuhr knows anything about it, but he admitted that he didn't expect such a question and had no idea what was the cause of this disappearance.
On Wednesday I went to see two Polish documentaries: Anything Can Happen (1995) and The Travelling Cinema (2005). The first one made a great impression on me, but that's no wonder because it was made by a renowned documentalist Marcel Łoziński, a director of a well known 89 mm from Europe (1993). The main character of Anything Can Happen is a six year old boy Tomek Łoziński (director's son), who is running in a park and talking to various old people sitting on benches. His questions touch on their past, loneliness, plans, death… It's surprising and moving how much those anonymous people could open before a little kid, when talking about their lives.
Reading some snippets about The Travelling Cinema I was expecting something similar in atmosphere to the magical History of Cinema in Popielawy (1998) by Jan Jakub Kolski (though it's not a documentary, of course). In this aspect I was a little disappointed, because the main characters don't seem to be film enthusiasts – simply they are unemployed so they use an old Fiat to visit small towns of Poland. The idea is definitely worth a lot of support, because TV and computers undoubtedly cause that the value of cinema is practically forgotten, especially in small towns and villages. It's sad though, that some twelve-year-olds are asking them for fags and porn movies, because Bolek and Lolek is not good for them.
Also on Wednesday there was an opening of Roads to Freedom exhibition dedicated to “Solidarity” movement. Exhibition openings are always a good occassion to see some local officials and also drink free wine :-) so I went there. Among the speakers was the Polish ambassador in Ireland Mr. Tadeusz Szumowski and also the exhibition director, Mrs. Danuta Kobzdej. The part of collection visible in Dublin consists of about fifty photographs and several movies displaying the fight for freedom in post-war Poland. The photos are obviously well known to people interested at least a little bit in recent history, but it's good to see them collected together and in large format. I like the way they arranged the stands in the shape of a film tape. I recommend visiting the exhibition, it's located in St. Michael and John's Church, adjacent to Cultivate centre, entrance free. If you had problems finding it, I can add that it's at a stone throw distance from Porterhouse pub, which should be known to any Dubliner.
(apologies for poor quality of some pictures)
Today I saw The Welts (2004), which I wanted to watch for a long time. The film was rightly given several awards during Gdynia Film Festival. The cinema was almost full, and although Poles were of course the majority, one could see quite a few foreigners as well. I think it is a good sign that our films are not necessarily worse than the other European ones – it's just they are not advertised enough.
Update: the festival has finished.