"I WANTED TO MAKE A FILM ABOUT A GOOD CONVERSATION, ABOUT THE CONVERSATION WHICH CAN HELP" - INTERVIEW WITH PAWEŁ ŁOZIŃSKI
One of the films shown at the 56th Krakow Film Festival was the latest documentary film by Paweł Łoziński, "You Have No Idea How Much I Love You" - the winner of the Silver Hobby-Horse in the Polish Competition. We would like to invite you to read the interview with the film's author.
Daniel Stopa: After watching "You Have No Idea How Much I Love You," I thought that it was your father who would want to make such a film. Mainly thanks to the interesting intermediary, a medium - a special figure that was often used by your father in his films…
Paweł Łoziński: Professor de Barbaro gave me an enormous sense of security and freedom. Often we, the authors of documentary films, deal quite well with making our protagonists confide in us. We witness some kind of a tragedy, we enter a family hell with a camera and what we see there can be colourful and interesting. When we finish the film, its protagonists are left to themselves in the stage which can be dangerous to them. We cannot close them when the film is done, we do not have appropriate tools to do it. When I was making my new film, for the first time I knew that my "intermediary" can give the protagonists and me the sense of comfort in this matter. I am only a director, and he is a very experienced, brilliant psychotherapist.
You have already played the role of a therapist many times. Over the years, you have been making films in which your protagonists looked at themselves like in the mirror. "Father and Son" is seemingly a film therapy?
Seemingly, because in reality this film could not become any kind of therapy. It seemed to me and my father that we can handle this on our own. What it showed was our lack of humility. Instead of having a third party to talk to, we took a camera. A bit of plastic and glass was supposed to replace a qualified therapist for us. Talking to each other, being in front of the camera, sometimes playing roles for the camera, we thought that we would fix our problems. It could not have worked. "Father and Son" cured me of the thought that I can be an amateur psychotherapist. Maybe this is why I wanted to make a film about a good conversation which can help. The one we treated ourselves to in "Father and Son" might have been more dramatic, colourful, full of strong feelings screamed on the screen. In the new film, it is more of a whisper, afterthoughts, tears and a lot of silence.
Professor de Barbaro explains emotions and thoughts in an extraordinary way. For me, he is the key to understanding the feelings of the protagonists: Hania – the daughter in the film – and Ewa – the mother in the film…
He is the translator of words. If we want to let go of an emotion, feeling, first we have to name it. Professor de Barbaro catches the protagonists' words, takes a look at them, explains them, allows to take them back, change them. The point is that the word should express the feeling precisely, at the same time it should not hurt the partner. Sometimes, the word is changed in this stage and later we come back to this feeling, which is called a little differently. This is just like a secret code which you share with a close person. You use words which have clear meanings for you. During therapy, it is probably a similar thing, one works out a new language of communication. On the one hand, the therapist translates the mother's language into the daughter's language, on the other hand, he is an invisible mirror through which the protagonists can see each other in a new way, a little differently.
You devote a lot of words to Professor de Barbaro. Were you fascinated by him during film-making?
Of course! My fascination does not wane. I was enchanted by his methods of work, experience, peace of mind and the unique blend of intellectual precision with great empathy and sensibility. It is a rare combination. He lets the protagonists' feelings pass through him, filters them. He acts as a resonance box, a very sensitive instrument. For me, there is something incredibly beautiful and elegant in his work, it is like some kind of musical improvisation.
After watching your film, one can recommend the professor with confidence...
For some, Professor de Barbaro will be the best, others would prefer someone totally different, with a different temperament, a woman therapist who shows her feelings, or a person who works more with the body. I observed many psychotherapists during their work. Andrzej Wiśniewski, Ala Elczewska, great psychotherapists, helped us with the film. There is no answer to the question: who is the best? The question should be rather: who is the best for whom? The method of work used by de Barbaro turned out to be appropriate, effective for my protagonists.
And how did Ewa and Hania appear in the film - the mother and the daughter?
On Facebook, we posted an announcement that we were looking for volunteers for the film therapy, stating the security conditions. We got plenty of submissions. I had about 100 conversations, difficult meetings eight hours a day. Emotionally difficult, because the protagonists talked about their traumas, problems, burdens. That was what I asked for. I was surprised by the openness, such a great need to share their difficult issues with me. Later, we made the choice and filmed over twenty pairs during therapy sessions with various psychotherapists. These are tens of hours of material. Among them, there was the session of Hania and Ewa. These two women had the most courage in allowing us to look into their souls. After watching the material, the idea appeared to make a film only about them. My brilliant editor, Dorota Wardęszkiewicz, urged me very strongly to do it.
Over a long period of time, people provided you with many interesting stories. Can you get addicted to them?
Certainly, I got terrible cravings when I had to finish all this "psychotherapeutic casting." It is something extraordinary when a complete stranger sits down in front of you and in a half an hour tells you the story of their lives. After it was finished, I felt some kind of a lack. How come, today nobody will tell me about break-up, death or love?
At the beginning, Ewa and Hania have to understand why they participate in the therapy. They have to understand that they came here to do something for themselves. Is it an egoistical attitude?
It seems to me that it does not have anything to do with egoism. Doing something good for ourselves should be something natural for us. Maybe by caring for ourselves we would take better care of others?
The beginning of the film is such a moment in the therapy, when a contract is concluded, the aim and number of potential sessions is agreed upon. Probably mere coming to such a therapeutic meeting means that we do care about ourselves. It is a bit of good will to talk.
Your film gives the example that a conversation between diverse people can be successful, you only need the right tools and the right person to do it...
Certainly, it can also be a success without the help of a therapist. My film is not an advertisement for psychotherapy. If anything, it is more of an encouragement for those who would like to try, but are a bit apprehensive about it. There are plenty of stereotypes about it, some people say: "you have to be really mentally ill to tell your intimate stories to a stranger and even worse, pay him for it."
For me, the film therapy is a subject matter, but also an excuse to show
a moving story dealing with the entanglement of two close people who love each other. The word love is a key here. How much freedom is in it, and how much violence? This is what the film is about.
In the film, you do not embellish reality. You use a very ascetic form…
I wanted to have only the faces and conversations against a neutral background. The close, beautiful portraits were illuminated by Kacper Lisowski. Professor de Barbaro made the film more dramatic thanks to a fascinating therapeutic conversation. We had 5 real psychotherapeutic sessions, each one 50 minute long. We did not shoot any pick-ups, re-takes.
There was plenty of material, we had to shorten it into 80 dramatic minutes. With Dorota Wardęszkiewicz, it took us a lot of time in spite of the fact that the sessions were conducted in a very precise way. Actually, this precision of the therapist demanded a similar approach from us in the editing room so that we would not lose anything important along the way.
It was his precision that made it possible for the protagonists not to suffer, it turns out that it does not have to hurt?
It probably did hurt, but it was a pain controlled by the doctor. When it does not hurt, it may mean that we do not feel anything. We are left with the question: "What do we do with this pain?" as de Barbaro keeps on asking one of my protagonists.
You say a lot about the morality of the documentary film-makers, about the morality of the camera. But today everything is for sale…
That is the world. For sale or for show. When it comes to taking photos, filming, revealing everything and an aggressive pornografisation of their lives at every level, people can unwittingly do terrible things to themselves. On the web, they let us into a very intimate sphere. They have the right to do it, they can do everything to themselves. When I make a film about them, automatically I take full responsibility for it.
At some point during the therapy, Hania refers to an online video which she watched, showing a stork mother throwing a baby stork out of the nest. The girl very easily translates this image into her own life. Your film also has a universal power, in the story of Ewa and Hania everyone can find something for themselves…
I cared very much about showing how close we are related to each other. Our human feelings are universal. This is nothing new, we seem to know it but we often forget about it. Others feel just what we do, so maybe we are not so lonely? Father and son could also see their reflections in the story of mother and daughter.
I liked the fact that your protagonists are not one-dimensional, that it is not easy to determine who is guilty, who is the harasser and who is the victim...
Guilt is perhaps a word taken rather from the sphere of religion than psychotherapy. You can be both the harasser and the victim. This is what I also learned from the stories of my various protagonists. Evil and good live in each of us. There are no saints, and if someone considers himself one, he has a problem. Or rather we have a problem with him.
Thank you very much for the interview.