“A film about love”
by Fabien Lemercier
- Polish director Malgorzata Szumowska explains her approach to In the Name of, a film about a homosexual priest, unveiled in competition in Berlin
The Polish filmmaker met the international press at the end of the screening of In the Name of [+see also:
interview: Malgorzata Szumowska
interview: Mateusz Kosciukiewicz
film profile], a controversial movie about the Catholic Church and homosexuality, in official competition at the 63rd Berlinale. Extracts
What were your intentions when you tackled such a polemical topic?
Malgorzata Szumowska: Most importantly, I wanted to make a film about love. I wanted to understand the priest's personality, his desires and thoughts, not to judge him. It was, however, crucial to distinguish homosexuality from paedophilia, which is not the subject of the movie. I simply started from a personal approach. I never think about possible reactions during the creative process: I do not calculate, and I am sometimes then surprised by spectators’ perceptions. In any event, I had no political intentions, and I did not make this movie for one side or the other.
You must nevertheless have known that dealing with the subject of homosexuality in the Catholic Church would not go unnoticed?
It is obvious that the film will draw the attention of the conservative side of society, and they probably won’t like it. I think this subject is a question of power and a long tradition, which is no longer in keeping with modern society. But it is a difficult question which sometimes provokes intolerant reactions. Yet, maybe some priests, even if they are not allowed to say so, will recognize themselves in the movie. In any case, it is necessary for this kind of voice to exist in Poland, even if I am a bit scared that people will inevitably want to identify me with an ideology or stick a “gay movie with priest” tag on the film. It always makes me uncomfortable when people judge reality as black or white, as often happens in Poland, when it is most often somewhere in the middle, some shade of grey. That being so, it can still be said that this is a “gay movie” (laughter)
How did you cast all these young people who excel in the supporting roles?
We found them around the film location, in little villages. It was very complicated for me at first because they were quite aggressive, they swore a lot and challenged me a little. I spent time with them, observing them before choosing them. But a week after shooting began, they were as gentle as lambs.
Why such a harsh ending?
We were influenced by lots of articles: it sometimes happens that priests get their lovers into the seminary. It's a bit dramatic in a sense, since they are often young men with hardly any prospects. And when you are a priest in Poland, you have money, an education and a position in society. The film couldn't have had a happy ending. It is a somewhat ironic finale, yet realistic and rather disturbing.
Was it hard to find funding for the film?
No, thanks to the Polish Film Institute, which isn't afraid of addressing controversial subjects. But there were a few other people who were scared of polemics. The fundamental question for the film was: “Do we or do we not have the courage to deal with political subjects?” However, it was a very small budget, because we didn't need much. The production team allowed us all the time we needed.
Why does East European cinema seem to be undergoing a real transformation?
We have a completely different past, and one that is quite special. In some ways, everything is still new: capitalism, democracy... In Poland, it's very lively, lots of things are happening, discussions are animated and there are debates about who we are. In a sense, it’s very creative, even if it isn’t always pleasant. That must be why today's East European films have a "colour" all their own.
(Translated from French)