"I think the viewer is more intelligent than I am"
by Theodore Schwinke
- Marcin Wrona's second feature approaches the gangster genre from an art-house angle. Cineuropa caught up with the Polish director at the Bratislava International Film Festival
Cineuropa: How much of The Christening [+see also:
interview: Marcin Wrona
film profile] is based on actual events?
Marcin Wrona: About 80% of the screenplay is true. I try to avoid this question because those people are still alive and operating in the mafia. At the same time, they also have their own private lives. These events took place about 10 years ago, when the mafia was stronger in Poland than it is now. We had just gone through our political changes and there was so much chaos, with gangsters influencing a lot of politics. The true story was that there was a guy involved in the brutal world of the Polish mafia who wanted to escape his past and change his life. But I didn't want to reconstruct events. I wanted to make something more universal. It's a brutal crime story, but I wanted to say that there is a kind of escape from this world and find beauty in life.
How did your project originate?
About eight years ago, I read a screenplay by a guy who knew the real people from the story. He wanted to make the movie but he realized that it was too close to his private life. He suggested I make it because he knew I loved the story. I also included the story in my first movie.
How did you finance the production?
Odeon Film Studio was the producer. We got about 75% of the budget from the Polish Film Institute, the rest came from Odeon in post-production. The whole budget was about 500,000 euros.
It looks like more money on the screen.
The low budget turned out to be a good thing during production. We had to find the right way to tell the story without money. This meant no sound stages, no explosions. Ok, one small explosion — but it's enough for this movie. The story is character-driven, with no attractions other than their psychological state, which can be risky.
How do you see the current state of Polish cinema?
I think we are still looking for our own new language. We had many masters in the 1970s and '50s like Andrzej Wajda and Krzyzstof Kieslowski. Now that we have the Polish Film Institute and more money for production, many Polish producers are trying to make commercial movies for huge audiences, which is meaningless because we don't know what a huge audience is.
There is no guarantee in Poland. Even for Jerzy Skolimowski’s Essential Killing [+see also:
interview: Jerzy Skolimowski
film profile], the Special Jury Prize from Venice is no guarantee for a regular audience. We have to educate the audience. Otherwise Polish cinema will become just like television. Cinema is not only entertainment. It's something more than just providing enjoyment for the audience.
I think what Romanian directors are doing is a good example. They got rid of all the producers and started making films on their own with French sales agents. We don't need big producers because they only think about money, not about creating culture.
So how can filmmakers attract audiences?
I'm trying to find a middle way between commercial and art house film. I'm trying to do something based on genre but also with some universal elements, with some message. Many Polish producers think we have to make movies for a stupid audience. I'm the opposite. I think the viewer is more intelligent than I am.
What new projects are you developing?
My Flesh My Blood [+see also:
film profile] and The Christening were like two parts of a trilogy. I would love to make the last part with a story based on women. I would also love to make a big film, based on my own story about an area in Poland close to Ukraine. Before the second world war, it was a mixture of different cultures – eastern, western, Polish, gypsies. When the war ended all these ethnic groups continued killing each other until 80 percent of the population was dead.