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BLACK NIGHTS 2021 First Feature Competition

Aleksandra Terpińska • Director of Other People

“The most important thing was to translate the poetry of the verses into the poetry of the images”


- The Polish director has crafted a modern musical about a young man who numbs his longing for love and affection with alcohol and an insignificant fling

Aleksandra Terpińska • Director of Other People
(© Mateusz Nasternak)

Polish director Aleksandra Terpińska has presented her first feature, Other People [+see also:
film review
interview: Aleksandra Terpińska
film profile
, at this year's Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, fittingly in the First Feature Competition. With it, she has crafted a modern musical about a young man who numbs his longing for love and affection with alcohol and an insignificant affair. We talked to the director about the challenges she encountered while adapting Dorota Masłowska’s novel into a film.

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Cineuropa: Why did you wish to adapt the novel by Dorota Masłowska?
Aleksandra Terpińska:
The author is very famous in Poland; her language is unique, and I had always wanted to work with her. She came to me with the novel and suggested I make a film out of it. But when I first read the novel, I wasn't very happy, as I thought it was impossible to make a movie out of the material. We then prepared a book trailer, a video to promote the sale of the book, and we discovered what a film of it could actually look like. We got an idea of how we could tell the story, and this gave me the courage to try it.

How was your relationship with the author?
She gave me a lot of space. I wrote the script by myself, but she was close by as a kind of adviser and sparring partner. She was important for a reality check.

What were the most important aspects you wanted to convey?
The novel is written in rap lyrics and in rhymes. There are no dialogues, no descriptions. The difficulty lay in making a film out of a poem. The most important thing was to translate the poetry of the verses into the poetry of the images. I wanted to keep in the rap lyrics, and the same flow. The result had to feel like a book and, at the same time, be a film as well, by having a dramatic flow. This is why the movie has a semi-musical form. Concerning the story, I wanted to focus on the characters and their struggle to find love.

The music is an essential element of the film. How did you go about creating the soundtrack?
The soundtrack had to be dark and gloomy, representing winter in Warsaw, which is very grey. The depressing atmosphere of the city had to reflect the state of mind of the characters. When I searched for the musicians, I found Auer, who does beats for one of the most famous rappers in Poland, PeZet. He wanted to take a chance on it and spent a long time writing the whole musical score. Every song had to accompany a special moment, and carry specific feelings and emotions. All of the songs were ready before shooting. The music entailed a huge amount of preparation, since the actors had to perform the songs on set and had to know them in advance.

Could you tell us more about the most important aspects of the aesthetics you wanted to achieve?
The film had to feel realistic and, at the same time, have fantastical elements. The atmosphere had to be dark, gloomy and depressing. Even in this high, fancy apartment, the people’s loneliness and longing for love had to feel very present.

Does the fact that the film revolves around Christmas have a special meaning for you?
The book already revolved around Christmas. The atmosphere after Christmas is an important component of it: it is a time when there is a certain sadness that predominates. Christmas has gone, and with it all the good things related to it. January is a tough time for most.

How did you find your cast?
We did a huge casting process lasting six months. It was hard to choose the actors since the rapping component had to be convincing. We knew it wouldn't be easy for the actors to rap and act at the same time. I had known Jacek Beler, who plays the main role, since we were students. He had already played a small character in one of my short films. He is a very well-known theatre actor but has not been cast very often in Polish cinema. I think he was perfect for the role since he can convey a certain softness and gentleness in his eyes as well as his looks. He prepared for it very well.

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