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Daria Woszek • Director of Marygoround

“My heroine is a virgin and she is happy about it”


- We talked to the Polish director Daria Woszek, who puts a new spin on what it means to be “touched for the very first time” on her title Marygoround

Daria Woszek  • Director of Marygoround

In Marygoround [+see also:
film review
interview: Daria Woszek
film profile
, originally set to premiere at SXSW, Daria Woszek focuses on virgin Mary (Grażyna Misiorowska) – although one working in a grocery store instead of standing at the altar, who finds out she is about to go through a menopause. The film has taken home the award for Best Film and Best Actress at Canada’s Fantasia Film Festival, and we talked to her about it.

Cineuropa: Even Stevie Nicks apparently claimed that rock and menopause don’t mix. What made you want to focus on something most women prefer not to talk about?
Daria Woszek:
We always live in its shadow. It is said that when you cross this “magic line,” your life is basically over. You are unable to have children, you become transparent. However, I had the chance to observe both Grażyna and my mother, and suddenly it turned out to be a completely different experience. After menopause, many women feel they can finally be themselves. You no longer care if someone will find you attractive, you don’t do anything you don’t want to do. You don’t define yourself through social roles. My mother told me that knowing what she knows now, she would raise me in a different way.

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It’s interesting that you decided to show a moment when the female body ceases to be the centre of attention, because genre cinema…
…Likes to fetishise it?

Or is afraid of it, I would say.
Playing with genres always interested me. I find it amusing, also because you can talk about important things without assuming the position of a mentor. It’s a kind of game where everything is ambiguous. In Poland, this tradition of the “cinema of moral anxiety” is still very strong – people are afraid of being seen as “frivolous.” But you don’t have to be deadly serious about everything. I prefer to ask questions and actually hear the answers. Marygoround certainly shows men in a distorted way, it’s women who make all the choices, unlike in the patriarchal, Catholic environments. Someone close to me pointed out that Mary makes men realise they don’t fully know their wives. My heroine is a virgin and she is happy about it. She is not interested in sex.

Or the kind of “advice” we get from Cosmopolitan covers? I thought of them while listening to your characters discussing the aphrodisiac qualities of pumpkins.
Some people think it’s not funny at all [laughter]. They can seem broad, but it was never meant to be a psychological film. I wanted to show all the things that shape us, the stories claiming you should wait for your Prince Charming, or at least a rich sugar daddy, that love is like in fairy tales and a mousey girl always gets the guy. Everyone expects a sad story about a sad woman, and I show a virgin who doesn’t really care for all that. Or these Cosmo tips.

There is a bit of a retro feel to Marygoround – especially in the shop where she works, which looks very 1980s.
These places still exist! I remember what life was like in post-communist Poland – how we would look at these colourful magazines from Germany, all flushed. We forget about these days, we erase history. I am talking about many things that we find embarrassing, but at the same time I wanted to show a world that can’t be pinned down: it could be anywhere and nowhere.

Yours is the kind of film that pretty much relies on its actress. And yet you chose a person without much experience in front of the camera. Why?
I have known Grażyna since I was a student. I have seen her in various situations on stage and she is able to just “be” there: you hear her thoughts. I didn’t want to choose some famous actress, already associated with previous roles. This movie is literally based on Grażyna, as at one point it was being written with her in mind.

I guess some people can put Marygoround in a box that says: “Weird, feminine: No.” But I wanted to show how we are used to behaving like men. For them, there is an impulse, an action and a reaction. But maybe a woman likes something else? Many friends who are my age say they have never experienced an orgasm, but they fake it to make their partner feel better. In these narratives nobody ever asks how you are supposed to feel. I am aware that, given the current situation, I will be probably accused of offending someone’s religious beliefs. Still, to me, femininity is all about contradiction: sacrum and profanum, naivety and strength, and the truth is always somewhere in the middle, between a “fallen” woman and the figure of a saint. A friend of mine said that it’s the first Polish film about the wild nature of female sexuality since Piotr Szulkin’s Femina, and that I was brave because he was crushed after its release. There was this interview with him, where he said: “Your erotic dreams and fantasies don’t have to necessarily invade the sanctity that you consider important” – and this is somehow the motto of Marygoround. Thirty years ago, people weren’t ready for it. And who knows? Maybe not much has changed since then.

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