Polish, polyglot, provocative
by Fabien Lemercier
- Born in 1957 in Warsaw, living in the UK, Modern Languages graduate (majoring in French and German), he also has a Ph.D. in literature and philosophy. A talented linguist, intellectual and director
Born in 1957 in Warsaw, Pawel Pawlikowski has lived in the UK since he was a teenager. A Modern Languages graduate (majoring in French and German), he also has a Ph.D. in literature and philosophy. This talented linguist, who also spent a year in Turin, then turned his hand to directing documentaries, all produced by the BBC. He came to public notice in 1989 with From Moscow to Pietushki, a caustic work on culture and alcoholism in Russia which won him numerous awards (Emmy International, Prix Italia, Royal Television Society Award). In 1992, he set the cat among the pigeons with Serbian Epics, which is about the rebirth of Serbian poetry and which was shot during the siege of Sarajevo. A scene showing Radovan Karadzic reciting self-penned poems to the Serbian youth up on the hillside while his heavy artillery was bombarding the city provoked a request for censure (overruled) on the part of the British military authorities. Next came Dostoevsky's Travels (special mention at the Felix European Film Academy Awards) and, in 1995, Tripping with Zhirinovsky, a portrait of the Russian nationalist politician which won the filmmaker a Grierson Award.
After an incursion into docu-drama in 1998 with Twockers (40 mins.), which deals with the life of a teenage car thief trying to go straight, Pawel Pawlikowski made his fictional debut directing, that same year, The Stringer (1998), which was shown at Cannes during Directors’ Fortnight. Filmed in both Russia and Poland, this TV film, which starred Sergeï Bodrov Junior (who passed away in 2002), recounts the love of a Russian journalist/cameraman for an English producer against a background of shady goings-on involving politicians and the Mafia in the former Iron Curtain countries.
But the filmmaker really made people sit up with his first full-length fictional feature film Transit Palace (Last Resort - 2000), which wowed critics and audience alike at the festivals, winning prizes for, inter alia, Best Film at Edinburgh, Thessalonica, Gijon and Motovun, as well as kudos for actors Dina Korzun and Paddy Considine. Nominated in two categories at the Baftas, the film, which is a love story set in a refugee centre on British territory, won the Award for the Most Promising Newcomer at the Bafta Awards, and four nominations at the British Independent Film Awards. A success that gave Pawel Pawlikowski the opportunity to make a film based on the life of Sylvia Plath starring Gwyneth Paltrow in the main role and from which he eventually resigned in favour of My Summer of Love [+see also:
interview: Jean-Paul Rougier
interview: Pawel Pawlikowski
interview: Tanya Seghatchian
film profile]. A decision that set the tongues wagging but which ended up vindicating the perpetrator as his last opus won the award for Outstanding British Film of the Year at the Bafta Awards 2005, was nominated five times at the British Independent Film Awards and was a huge hit at the Edinburgh Festival.
(Translated from French)