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BLACK NIGHTS 2019 First Feature Competition

Bartosz Kruhlik • Director of Supernova

“The construction of the story is rigid, which involved a huge risk. If I changed or cut 2 or 3 scenes, everything would fall apart”


- Cineuropa sat down with Supernova director Bartosz Kruhlik to discuss his first feature film, screening in the First Feature Competition at Tallinn’s Black Nights

Bartosz Kruhlik • Director of Supernova
(© Krzysztof Mystkowski)

Supernova [+see also:
film review
interview: Bartosz Kruhlik
film profile
, which snagged the Best Debut Award at the Polish Film Festival in Gdynia, had its International Premiere in the First Feature Competition of the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival. Bartosz Kruhlik’s film is an impressive and expertly crafted story about a hit-and-run that occurs on a small road, on a beautiful Sunday morning.

Cineuropa: Supernova is your debut feature, but you’re an experienced director. You have made 9 shorts which scooped awards at festivals around the globe, including Rome, Puerto Rico, Lyon, Tirana and Bratislava.
Bartosz Kruhlik
: Indeed. Even when I was making a short film, I worked as if it was the most important film of my life. So I do have a lot of experience in putting my whole heart in a production, and also in watching my work with an audience.

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The story of the hit-and-run that we follow in Supernova is fictitious, but I read that you based it on facts.
Not really. A few years ago, I read about a tragic car crash that happened in Poland, but that’s all. This event inspired me to make a movie that would revolve around an event like this. I wrote the whole story from scratch.

You had a small budget of €300,000. Were you forced to adjust your ideas to these modest financial conditions?
Luckily, this concept turned out to be feasible under those financial constraints. I obviously had to make some compromises; for example, I had to limit the number of professional actors playing the locals, so we used extras and non-actors instead. But I didn’t have to introduce any creative changes in the script, like changing the ending or shorten a scene. I could recreate on the set pretty much everything that I had written. We worked literally in one location, which was helpful here — it wasn’t the cheapest place to rent and it had to be closed for filming, but once we started shooting, we didn’t have to move anything or anyone.

The cast consists of relatively unknown actors, except for Marcin Hycnar, who plays a politician. Why?
It simply didn’t fit a story that had so many characters. I thought it would be a distraction for an audience, if they saw actors known for their 10 or 15 other films. That artistic choice facilitated logistics: with an all-star cast, it would have been very difficult to adjust the shooting schedule to their agendas. My actors, to whom I wish fame and fortune, work mainly in theatre, so during the summer, they were on vacation.

The action spans a few hours, and we get to meet a lot of characters: victims, police, first responders, witnesses. The structure of the film resembles a toy train – once the engine starts, it can go only one way. How did you prepare yourself to shoot this “mechanism”?
Much credit has to be given to my cinematographer Michał Dymek, who rehearsed the scenes with me to see if my ideas were working. First, we staged all the sequences with toy cars and toy figurines, then we asked our friends to act as stand-ins. After we checked the choreography, we started rehearsals with the actors, to further verify the ideas and maybe add a few things that they would suggest. A few times, we used improvisation, especially in the group scenes. For example, there was a scene with people gathering around the police tape and praying. Before the actual shot, Michał discreetly turned the camera on and began filming the crowd. The professional actors noticed that and started to speak their lines, while non-actors were “just standing”, but reacted to the situation. That was fascinating, because in a way, we had a tiny documentary film in Supernova. The construction of the story is rigid, which involved a huge risk. If I changed or cut 2 or 3 scenes, everything would fall apart. This film has a very cause-and-effect narration. I never thought that it can only go one way, as you say, but I guess it’s true. The characters seem to be able to move only within certain frames. But on the other hand, I feel that there is a lot of space in the film. It’s a result of camera work, of the way we don’t make any characters stand out, and of the fact that we have relatively unknown actors in the cast.

What are you working on now?
I am working film that, in a way, will resemble Supernova. The story will take place over one day, there will be many characters and the action will take place in one location, a tenement this time.

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