"I WANTED THE FILM TO BE A MEDITATION" - INTER-VIEW WITH MONIKA PAWLUCZUK
Three Polish films will be shown at the Canadian festival Hot Docs. One of them is the new documentary film by Monika Pawluczuk "End of the World." We would like to invite you to read the interview with the author.
Daniel Stopa: I got the impression that "End of the World" had to start from a very well-thought-out idea. The film's plot is built around a specific radio broadcast, which was held in a specific time and place. Does the final effect reflect to a large extent what you had assumed before shooting the film?
Monika Pawluczuk: The film started from a very well-thought-out idea, it is true, but the main difficulty was to put this idea into practice. In the case of such structural cinema as "The End of the World," what is the most important is to be consistent, not to get lost along the way. However, it is worth emphasising that the idea was not so clear from the beginning. Only one thing was clear: that "the end of the world," swapping the Mayan calendar for another, is only a pretext. The real story, the essence of the story, has always been somewhere else. There was the question, how to show it, which form to choose? I was searching for it. I dived into this world, documented the underground, got to know people, who were preparing to "the end of the world" in various ways, either with fear - wanting to escape, hide, cover under the ground, or perceiving it as a chance to develop, to use this moment to make changes in their lives. I entered this world and I was with them. We started to make a film about it. Suddenly, this story seemed too straightforward to us. The radio turned out to be the brainwave, the formal brainwave.
The radio-protagonist which we hear in your film, is an extremely noble medium with an exceptional power - it serves people to make some kind of confessions, is a cathartic place. You started your career as a journalist by working in the radio, so you knew the subject matter from the inside…
Radio is my medium. It shaped me - my imagination and character. Particularly TOK FM from the times of Ewa Wanat. It was the period when each of us had freedom, because Ewa Wanat knows perfectly well how to manage a team of individualists.
At the beginning you said that "the end of the world" was only a pretext. One can say that the film's title is tricky, as it brings to mind a whole list of catastrophic films with fireworks and a deluge of special effects, but in fact all what is the most important happens inside the soul, we get to know intimate, private fates of the broadcast's listeners, people talk about their emotions, loss of a close person, loneliness, childhood traumas...
I always start from what is inside, this is what I am the most interested in. We had other material, too. We were shooting the preparations to "the end of the world," preparations of people, who are now dead, who committed suicide. This is the sad part of the story. Should one make a film about it? I did not have any doubts that I did not want to and could not go that way. We also quickly withdrew from accompanying these people with the camera. They committed suicide long after the filming ended. They struggled with themselves, with their own end of the world. They did not survive. This is a topic for a totally different film. I am not sure whether it would be a documentary film, but certainly not this film. In addition, we could, because of our presence - only because of our presence, I would like to stress this - we could negatively influence the lives of these people. Why? Because of the camera. In my opinion, one should not take such a responsibility. There is such a thing now, I constantly notice it, some kind of hunger, yearning for love - sometimes people can do anything, only to be noticed, to appear in the film. One has to be very careful then, as one can create something simply by being present. The situations I like the most are the ones when my presence either does not disturb the normal state of affairs, or when it gives something, provides support. In this case, we could only fuel some kind of sick chain reaction. I had to withdraw.
In "The End of the World" we listen to very personal experiences of the broadcast's listeners, but with all this you managed to avoid the nosy, intrusive kind of reporting. To a large extent, it is thanks to the image - made out of, among others, impersonal recordings from the city monitoring and scenes, in which we seemingly look into the windows of housing estates, but these shots are blurred... The lack of surnames, faces, labels gives the film a universal dimension...
I wanted this film to be a meditation, immersion in the here and now, a kind of arresting a given moment, digging deeper and stopping. Each story is a human being. Though we only hear the sound, we can see the whole person, his own universe. I am extremely moved by each story in this film, I like all characters very much, and at the same time, their lives form a kind of a whole, a voice which arises from the abyss of the night. And this is the universal dimension that you asked about.
I would also like to ask about the threesome of the main protagonists, united by the nightly broadcast: the host of the broadcast in Radio Łódź, the emergency ambulance service dispatcher and the taxi driver. I guess that you recorded material which included much more people. Why were these three chosen?
We had quite a lot of material, but minimalism won. When there were more stories, it was more epic, but the film lost focus which was the most important thing for me, to listen to people and see them. We also filmed the night therapy, a very poignant story of a man who still lives in fear because his father committed suicide. This man goes to the night therapy when he has panic attacks. Two hours of intense material. Maybe for another film. We were also filming in the hospice run by Father Jan Kaczkowski. It is a special place, there, dying is surrounded by tenderness, however strange it may sound. However, in the film, a monk-like simplicity won: three protagonists, listening at night. Each of them in a different way. The taxi driver also tells his own story, moved by what he hears on the radio. This is like a polyphonic composition for three voices. And why these specific people? The two main characters co-operated well with each other as far as dialogue is concerned, and the taxi driver complemented them.
Thank you very much for the interview.