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“Life is such a treasure – we only understand that when we lose it”

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Jerzy Skolimowski • Director


- VENICE 2015: Polish director Jerzy Skolimowski has brought his latest film, 11 Minutes, to the competition at the Venice Film Festival, where he explained his opus to the press

Jerzy Skolimowski  • Director

Veteran Polish director Jerzy Skolimowski answered questions from the journalists right after the world premiere of his latest effort, 11 Minutes [+see also:
film review
film focus
Q&A: Jerzy Skolimowski
film profile
, presented in competition at the 72nd Venice Film Festival. Actress Paulina Chapko, actor Wojciech Mecwaldowski and producer Ewa Piaskowska went on stage with him. Excerpts from the press conference follow.

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What can you say about the style of 11 Minutes?
Jerzy Skolimowski:
This film is an answer to the Hollywood action movies. It brings a little intelligence to something that is happening fast, with an occasionally violent touch. The style of the film basically happened on the set. I enjoyed making this film and working with this group of people; they were great. The painful period was the scriptwriting stage.

The stories intertwine throughout the film until they meet at the end.
When I started writing the script, I only had this ending in mind, so I started from the very end and moved backwards. I tried to create the characters and the situations that would allow me to bring them all together to that very place at that very moment. That finale is essential. The film doesn’t make sense without it. It’s my tool to warn the viewer that anything can happen in the next second. This is the message of the film: life is such a treasure – we only understand that when we lose it. Let’s use it as well as we can as long as we are alive.

Why “11 minutes”?
I wanted to show reality, even those moments that often get left in the editing room. I wanted to follow my characters in real time. We measured the time it took Wojciech to leave the hotel: 1:56. That was needed to coordinate the encounter with the hot-dog vendor and the other people’s actions. That was the only way to present the story I had in mind.

What made you film the prologue?
The prologue was conceived at the end of both the writing and the shooting stages because I didn’t know how much information we should have about the characters that we would be following later. I thought that the situation between the husband and the wife should be established well enough to enable audiences to understand why the husband is so mad to follow his wife to the hotel and do the things he does later on. Everything belonging to the prologue had to be executed in a different style to the events taking place between 17:00 and 17:11. That’s why I used phones, CCTV and so on.

Why did you set the story in Warsaw?
I believe it is a very universal story that could take place anywhere at anytime. To me, it was more convenient to shoot it in Warsaw because that’s where I live now, and I know the town myself. It was easier for me to pick up the right places and use my observations about life in the city.

Is the plane a reference to 9/11?
The connection between this film and 9/11 is very vague, obviously. 9/11 is too big an event for a movie. I used the plane as a measurement of time because the aircraft flies over at 17:05. Every time we hear the plane, we know that it is 17:05. It was a practical choice, rather than a metaphorical reference.

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