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FNE Venice IFF 2010: Interview with Jerzy Skolimowski

2010-09-24

Jerzy Skolimowski talks to FNE about his film Essential Killing at the Venice Film Festival

FNE: You are no stranger to the Venice Film Festival???

It's not my first visit to Venice. I've been here five or six times. I've shown my films. I've also been a member of the jury. My paintings were exhibited during the Biennale. You might say I am a veteran of the festival.

FNE: Your film Essentail Killing had its world premier here in Venice. What was the audience reaction like??

The reception to the film was fantastic; there was a very long standing ovation, several minutes, maybe about twenty. I don't know, I wasn't looking at my watch.
I haven't seen the other films, so it's hard for me to judge the chances for the award. I know that I've made the film exactly how I wanted to make it and in my opinion it is an excellent film.

FNE: How did you get the idea for this film??

I've managed to make my previous film „Four Nights with Anna" under very comfortable conditions, because I didn't really have to leave my house in the Masuria. I lived at home. I could even walk to some locations in the nearby forest.

And I was thinking whether I could repeat that somehow, again making a film almost without leaving home.

I was looking for a subject in the forest. I knew that at the Szymany airport is situated twenty kilometers away from my house

CIA planes used to land bringing prisoners from the Near East but I didn't see in it a subject for myself, because it is a very difficult, political subject and I really keep away from politics.

Maybe it's because I had trouble because of a political subject in my film "Hands Up!" many, many years ago, the film which in fact changed my life, made me emigrate.

So, a political subject is something that repels me. Nevertheless, in winter, at night, when I was on my way back home on a well known road in the forests, my car skidded and in spite of four wheel drive, it barely held to the road, nearly falling down a nearby slope.

And when I finally stopped, I realized that I was two kilometers away from the Szymany airport and that the road was most probably used by convoys taking prisoners to Kiełkuty.

I thought that if it could happen to me, that I almost slid down the slope, then it could also happen to one of the convoys. Especially that I often see animals on that road: boars, deer, hares

So the idea came to me that if there is a group of boars running across the road and the lead car of the convoy brakes suddenly, the paddy wagon following it hits or even touches its back bumper and slides down the slope, tumbles over, the prisoners could be thrown out.

One of them hides in the bushes, crawls farther away, finds himself in the forest theoretically free, but barefoot, irons on his ankles, in a prisoner's outfit ... and that is the situation which happens at the beginning of my film, and from this moment to the end, I am interested in what will happen to him.

Everything that happens earlier, the several minutes of the prologue, it's in fact only the background, a sketch of the situation, reduced to the minimum.

I don't even say whether the film starts in Afghanistan, Iraq or maybe some other place, whether it's an American military base, where the prisoners are kept, whether it's situated in any of those countries. I don't say whether the plane which is landing somewhere in Europe is really landing in Szymany, in Poland. For a long time not even a word is spoken in Polish.

Only later, in the second part of the film, we can hear parts of dialogues in Polish.

So, all this is very enigmatic, camouflaged, bacause it isn't at all about any documentary truth.
The film doesn't describe any particular event. It is all fantasy.

And it's kept rather in the style of a poem or a fable which merely slides over some events which could possibly happen, which most probably haven't taken place, for we would probably know something about it; or maybe it was so strictly kept a secret that we will never find out.

Anyway, it's like tacking on the verge of probability. That's why I don't treat this film as political. I would rather call it poetical and I hope this is the way it will be perceived.

FNE: The film is an international coproduction. Did the fact that the film is a coproduction with different countries change the way you approached your subject or how you shot the film??

The fact that the film was made as an international coproduction of four countries: Poland, Ireland, Norway, Hungary, with a contribution from Eurimage as the fith entity made it a quite complicated from the point of view of production, however it had no influence at all on the content of my film.

My coproducers had no wish for me to change anything to their dictation, so the film is absolutely mine, exactly how I wanted it to be and I'm fully responsible for it from the first to the last second of it and fully satisfied with the final shape it has taken.

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