"SOME CHOICES ARE SOMETIMES BEYOND US, WE SET OUT FOR SOME KIND OF A JOURNEY..." INTERVIEW WITH MAGDALENA GUBAŁA, THE CO-DIRECTOR OF THE FILM "THE INTERNAL EAR."
Agnieszka Młynarczyk: Together with Szymon Uliasz and the rest of the team, you made a very meditative film. This is not only a documentary film, but also - to a small extent, but still - an animated film. Who is the author of the animations and where did the idea come from to include animated fragments in the film?
Magdalena Gubała: The author of the animations is Marcin Podolec, the student of Piotr Dumała, an animated film-maker, but also a cartoonist. His comics are recognised and appreciated not only in Poland, but also around the world. We made contact with Marcin by watching a film on which he worked previously. The idea for the animations in our film came from the fact that Mikołaj Trzaska is a person who inspires with his music to design various paintings. Not only such images which evoke real figures or landscapes. We wanted to supplement this story with animations, because it seemed to us that they may be a pretty good complement for presenting the condition of the protagonist, or human condition in general. In one of the scenes, which looks a bit like a music video, we hear a song by the band Wovoka, the lyrics of the song are translated from English in order to emphasise its meaning. The song keeps on asking the question what is the human soul. We used animation to bring closer the image of the condition of a person, who is affected by various duties and dreams, and to some extent, at the mercy of fate regardless of what happens in the real life. Some choices are sometimes beyond us, we set out for some kind of a journey and we are transported from place to place, sometimes rather by accident. You can see it in the first animated scene, which is the record of the soul's condition during this lonely journey, in which one can also lose oneself in some sense.
AM: After the screening of your film I remembered that a couple of years ago I saw the film "Love," dir. by Filip Dzierżawski. One of its protagonists is Mikołaj Trzaska, who co-founded the music band Miłość. Did this film inspire you to some extent?
MG: This film is a totally different story, because it is a film based on an initiated event. Reactivating the music band Miłość is arranged for the film. I get the impression that it is almost of a journalistic, social character. We have a conflict there, partially a story-anecdote. This is a representation of this environment and these figures from the side of the event, about which the film is made (reactivating the music band Miłość). When it was going on, we had already been working on our film. Mikołaj did not reveal to us that it is in the process of its implementation. It was only later on when he hinted at it to us. "Love" did not inspire us in any way, because we had different assumptions. In our film, the main protagonist is Mikołaj Trzaska and his music. This is strictly a musical film.
AM: Speaking of music, you already knew Mikołaj Trzaska on the occasion of your earlier film, called "Scinki," for which he made music. How did your collaboration begin?
MG: When we were making the film "Scinki," we got the support - mainly bearing on the merits of the matter - from the director Wojtek Smarzowski. And it is thanks to him that we got acquainted with Mikołaj. We needed someone who would write music for this film, and Wojtek suggested that we should get in touch with Mikołaj. He let him know, and we were very happy about it. Earlier, we already knew the protagonist of our future film from the musical side. Particularly, we took a liking to the album "Kantry" from 2007, which he recorded together with Andrzej Stasiuk. It is a fantastic album. We also like his solo recordings and some of his achievements with various music bands. However, we did not have such a broad idea about Mikołaj's work then. We knew much less about his abilities. Wojtek got us in touch with him. It turned out that Mikołaj is also keenly interested in our film and what it tells about. We worked great together. Mikołaj added certain tracks, spotted out nuances, asked about meanings, made inquiries. It was an interesting experience.
AM: The relationship of Andrzej Stasiuk and Mikołaj Trzaska plays an important role in your film. Artists collaborate on a new project.
MG: Yes. This is another joint project of theirs, yet another, perhaps the second, album recorded together. This album has not been released yet. From my perspective, the collaboration of Mikołaj with Andrzej Stasiuk is based on friendship. As a matter of fact, this is what Andrzej says about it. They simply want to spend some time together and by the way, create something cool.
AM: Particularly because - I got the impression - that the one and the other gives from himself that in which he feels best. Stasiuk is responsible for the text and Trzaska for the music. And it is beautifully combined - as we see in the film - and maybe it is some kind of a quintessence of this cooperation.
MG: The texts read aloud by Stasiuk are very vivid and malleable. Interestingly, it turned out that Paweł Szpura, the percussionist who co-operates with them on this album, does not really listen to the meanings of words which are uttered by Andrzej Stasiuk. Szpura improvises, listening to the sound of the words rather than their meanings. So, this project is a verbal and musical conglomerate. From the musical side, the participation of Raphael Rogiński and aforementioned Paweł Szpura is also important.
AM: After the screening of the film at Krakow Film Festival you mentioned that "The Internal Ear" is the editing début of Maciek Walentowski.
MG: It was his first full-length film. At the same time, Maciek was editing the film "The Opening," dir. by Piotr Adamski that was given awards at Krakow Film Festival. Maciej had not been with us from the beginning of the making of "The Internal Ear," but in spite of this, we complemented each other fantastically. Together, we decided on some things. A great bulk of ideas came straight from Maciek. The scene of gluing one sentence together word by word, when improvisations are discussed, is his idea. The work with the sound was also important. Picture editing is one thing. We also had to pay attention to sounds, so that the rhythm of the image corresponds to the rhythms of sound. So then, there was sound editing, on which we co-operated with Marcin Lenarczyk.
AM: I was greatly impressed by the editing and this is why I felt the need to mention its author. You reached the harmony of editing with music, with cinematography and with the protagonists.
MG: There was quite a lot of material, a great bulk of it, and because of it, the editing work was rather burdensome and difficult. From version to version, our work went forward. It took us a lot of time. Finally, we decided to divide the film into subheadings and we worked out some kind of an optimum. Our film is divided into chapters, because we wanted to show different aspects of creating and emphasise them.
AM: Is art a form of entertainment, because it is easier to create than to go to the shops to buy bread? It is a very interesting thought, which appeared at some point in the film and stayed with me until its end.
MG: Yes. It is the matter which Mikołaj repeated to us many times. He brought attention to it, because for him it is very important. Mikołaj is incredibly ubiquitous, elusive and not obvious in what he does. He takes quite a lot of activity upon himself, co-operating with various artists, in order to experience more, to obtain something from it and at the same time, give something in return. I think that it brings him a lot of joy and some kind of satisfaction, in spite of the fact that he is perpetually insatiable and not entirely happy about what he is doing. He constantly wants to improve and diversify his activities. To search for something. I think that everyday, simple things are, in his view, more demanding. If you think about it for a moment, it is really so that the everyday life, which demands hard participation in reality, and at the same time is sometimes so acute, is difficult and oppressive. I myself also understand it to some extent. Nonetheless, Mikołaj also mentioned that the better he plays, the more he concentrates on this reality. By entering the reality, the matter of playing goes more smoothly for him, when he pays attention to everyday, ordinary things. I also think that at some point - I do not know exactly when - something has changed in his perception of himself and the reality. In one of the interviews, which were included in the film, Mikołaj mentions that it seemed to him that he could be only such as batty, lopsided rhombus, an artist, and that it is the only niche in which he can settle down. Now, however, he has the feeling that keeping both feet on the ground also has its advantages.
AM: You graduated from film studies at the Jagiellonian University. Did you first concentrate on theory, and then on practice?
MG: No. In my case, there was no dividing line between being interested in cinema and writing scripts and making films. I was interested in it much earlier. When I thought about film studies, I also thought about scriptwriting and film-making. I also had a plan to go to a film school after graduating from film studies. However, I gave up this thought, but the thought about making films accompanied me throughout my studies. Together with Szymon Uliasz, we made film studies and poetic video clips. Later, "Scinki" was made. Then, in the natural course of events, a new idea appeared and this is how "The Internal Ear" was made.
AM: Could you call yourself a self-taught person?
AM: "Scinki" is a feature film. Now, you made a documentary film. According to you, what is the most important difference between feature and documentary film?
MG: From the film-making angle, it is a completely different story. I feel more confident, making a feature film rather than a documentary, because a documentary is like a living thing, and it is more difficult for me. Whereas in a feature film, it is a closed world, which has been designed earlier. Each documentary film is to some extent a creative documentary. I do not believe in any revealed truth that this is the real life, because this is how it is and it cannot be otherwise. As far as "The Internal Ear" is concerned, this is our view on the situations presented in the film and on the people about whom we talk. These are also our emotions connected with our reception of the works by the protagonists, visual equivalents of sounds. The internal ear spots vibrations, moods, music.
AM: Thank you very much.
MG: Thank you.
The interview was conducted by Agnieszka Młynarczyk.