“I had to find a new form of narration that was not natural for me”
by Martin Kudláč
- BERLIN 2017: Cineuropa sat down with veteran Polish filmmaker Agnieszka Holland to discuss her latest feature, Spoor,Alfred Bauer Prize at Berlin
One of Poland's most eminent filmmakers, three-time Academy Award nominee Agnieszka Holland is introducing her latest feature, Spoor [+see also:
interview: Agnieszka Holland
interview: Zofia Wichlacz
film profile], a truly European co-production between Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Sweden and Germany, in the Berlinale's main competition. Cineuropa got the chance to talk to the director about Spoor's malleable genre, its topicality, and the difference between filmmaking and directing series.
Cineuropa: Among other things, your latest film, Spoor, has been labelled as a parable.
Agnieszka Holland: Spoor is not a parable as such. The film is partially a fairy tale, part realistic drama, part moral thriller, in part a dark comedy, and partly also a feministic-anarchistic story. You cannot grasp it entirely, and that's the reason why I made it. I've seen different reactions to Spoor: some people laugh out loud, while others sit silently, as they would at a funeral. I really don't want to put Spoor in a box. Even though you may consider it a dark eco-thriller, the film reflects our world and where we stand. I had no idea that the movie would be so up to date, since we were working on the project for a long time, and owing to events in the world, Spoor also proved to be political.
You mentioned that the film is feministic.
Yes, and anarchistic as well. I paraphrased a Coen brothers film title to describe the story a little bit: “This is no country for old women.” I believe it is quite accurate. The Central European context of the film is pretty clear, but I showed the movie to some agents in Los Angeles, and they agreed that Spoor is an American film. To be honest, it was not easy to get the funding for this project, since it is so hard to describe it, and people could not imagine what it would look like.
Spoor is based on a book, Drive Your Plough over the Bones of the Dead. How close is the adaptation to the source material?
The novel is not very long, so we kept the majority of the elements from it in the film, such as the main plot, the protagonist and the supporting characters; that said, it is a pretty accurate adaptation. On the other hand, it was quite a torturous process for me and Olga Tokarczuk, the author of the book. I really like Olga; she is famous in Poland but outside it as well, and I'd always wanted to make a film based on her works. Her short stories are very fitting for the big-screen treatment, but not her novels. This is the only novel that has a strong plot, so I thought it was going to be an easy task, which I would write the script for in a month. And two years later, we were revising the 11th version of the script. So it was quite hard to translate the book into film language. Furthermore, Spoor is a fairly different project to what I had been doing in the past. I had to find a new form of narration that was not natural for me. I dedicated a fair share of my life to the project, so I hope it was worth it.
Besides feature filmmaking, you also work on series. What is the difference between the two for you?
Series are a form of amusement for me, in which I can toy with style and conventions. I have finished a couple of episodes of House of Cards. We shot them during the American elections, so it was pretty surreal. Feature filmmaking is about full engagement, whereas when I work on episodes, it is a stylistic exercise for me. You have to make the episode in sync with previous ones, but if you can, you have to push it a bit further, to make it slightly better. A lot also depends on the script. When I made Rosemary's Baby, the process was more or less similar to the one for a feature film. It was a miniseries, so I had to devise it, create it, cast it, find actors and find a concept. When I made the miniseries Burning Bush [+see also:
film profile], it felt just like making a feature film.
Have you already got your next projects lined up?
I received a script by Czech writer Marek Epstein, Charlatan, based on a real-life figure that I really liked. It's a simple chamber story, and I would say that it's even mysterious, concealing a deep human and metaphysical secret, in my opinion. And then there is an American thriller on the slate as well, plus an international period drama about a British journalist before WWII who wants to be the first to do an interview with Stalin, since he was the first to interview Hitler. And he was a friend of George Orwell's, who wrote Animal Farm after listening to his experiences.