Mariusz Wilczyński • Director of Kill It and Leave This Town
“I can see that the universal themes in my film shine through”
by Ola Salwa
- BERLINALE 2020: Cineuropa met up with Polish director Mariusz Wilczyński to discuss his animation Kill It and Leave this Town, which was part of the newly introduced Encounters section
Cineuropa met up with Polish self-taught animation director Mariusz Wilczyński to discuss his creative process and how a clutch of legendary artists shaped his first feature, Kill It and Leave This Town [+see also:
interview: Mariusz Wilczyński
film profile], presented in the 70th Berlinale’s newly introduced Encounters section.
Cineuropa: Initially, Kill It and Leave This Town was supposed to be a short film. Fourteen years later, it’s emerged as a full-length animation. What is it like to work on a project for so long? You must have evolved as an artist and as a person.
Mariusz Wilczyński: The film evolved with me, but I think it was a universal story for the whole time – during these 14 years, I deleted just one scene, only because it had become obsolete. I am self-taught, so I have my own working methods, which are nothing like the workflow in a big animation studio. There, the script comes first, then you make an animatic, then record a voice-over, then do the actual animation, record actors and do lip sync.
For the first four years, I worked on the film alone. I live in a forest outside of Warsaw. It’s peaceful there; I made hundreds of drawings, and I was cramming them into a 20-minute film. Then I was joined by two other people: editor Jarek Barzan and sound editor Franek Kozłowski, with whom I started to record the voices of artists, who appear on the screen. The first person we recorded was actress Irena Kwiatkowska, who was already weak at the time, but she gave a wonderful performance. For the next ten years, we recorded many more voices with Franek. Then a group of animators joined me and helped me with the drawing.
The voices we hear belong to some legendary Polish artists: director Andrzej Wajda, actors Gustaw Holoubek, Irena Kwiatkowska, Barbara Krafftówna, Krystyna Janda and Daniel Olbrychski, and musicians Tadeusz Nalepa and Tomasz Stańko. Some of them passed away before the film was ready.
What I really cared about was capturing on tape the artists from the era when art was not for sale. They trained me; they shaped my imagination. This generation was fading away, so I wanted to stop them from disappearing. When I was listening to their taped voices, I realised something that I had never thought about before: they gave so much added value to their characters, so much life, that I had to re-think and re-shape the film. Obviously, they said only what I had written, and I had a lot of drawings already made, but they influenced my creative process. I think that my movie is a magic time capsule of sorts, which kept the final performances by Nalepa, Wajda and Holoubek safe until the Berlinale premiere. In a sense, I feel like these 14 years of working on Kill It and Leave This Town constituted the most meaningful time in my life.
You talk a lot about time and meaning in your film.
In my own way, I wanted to finish an interrupted conversation with my parents. They are gone now, and I had no time to talk to them or take better care of them when there was still time. Daily life was all-consuming, as there was always something to do or someone to meet... You tell your parents, “Let’s talk tomorrow,” but sometimes there is no tomorrow. I have noticed that this particular theme really moved many people in the audience. A German lady approached me after the screening and told me that she had an elderly mother and that she would go to visit her the next day. And she wouldn’t have done so if it hadn’t been for my film. I’m happy to see that people from abroad are moved by my feature; I wasn’t sure whether it would work for them, because there are many local elements. But I can see that the universal themes shine through.
Do you feel as if you left “the town”?
Yes, and that’s why I made my animation. I know it’s egocentric, but I felt I needed to reach closure with my film, to finish the unfinished conversations. What I didn’t expect was the positive reception that I got at the Berlinale. We already have an international sales agent, and I know I will be travelling a lot with the movie. But a small part of me would like to go on holiday and start working on a new film. I am planning to make an adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita.
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