AN INTERVIEW WITH PAWEŁ LOZIŃSKI – THE AUTHOR OF THE FILM “FATHER AND SON”
In an interview with Daniel Stopa, Paweł Łoziński talks about his latest documentary, presented at the 53rd Krakow Film Festival “Father and Son”.
Daniel Stopa: To start with a different angle, I’ll start with Marcel’s version of the film. In one of the scenes of the film “Father and Son on a Journey”, we are told that the whole project was in fact your idea. A question for the originator then: how did it all start?
Paweł Łoziński: I went to my father and told him: ‘I’m going to make a film about you’. He had only one condition, it had to be a film with two people having equal rights, it can’t only be portraying him. I agreed, I thought that’s actually interesting. Each of us had the right to ask the other any kind of questions. The plan was beautiful. It was over four years ago. In the beginning, we were shooting in Warsaw, we’ve made a lot of good material. It was lying on a shelf for a year, because my father didn’t agree for the editing. Then I came up with the idea to go Paris in a van, we’d still be talking and the form of the film would benefit from it. A road movie is a better solution than a chat on a bench in front of our house. We shot the footage in 2010, then I had to wait for another year and a half until my father finally agreed to sit down and edit it.
So the primary plan included the son as a director and the father as the character?
The plan was to keep the roles in balance, but that’s impossible. Naturally, I was more interested in my father than he was in me. That’s just how it works in a parent-child relationship. I asked, sometimes pushed him, he answered. Or not.
We’d agreed to make one, joint film. But my father insisted on making his own version and finally, he got what he wanted. Another film was made based on mine, a kind of polemic against my version. What will it do for the audience, we’ll see. It might end up being one of those games like: ‘Can you find 7 differences between the pictures’? Or maybe two different points of view on a family conflict and the directors’ opinion of themselves. Anyway, I’d rather talk about my film.
I think you won’t be able prevent the comparisons. Both films in a way talk about two different directors, who have a bit different ways of work, a different sensitivity and to a certain degree, it resulted in the making of two films…
In my film the characters are the father and the son, not two directors, but two people. It’s a film about family relations, not about work. I wanted it to be universal, understandable for everyone, not only for our friends and relatives. It’s an experiment, since for many years I’ve been making films about other people, I’ve been invading their privacy, sticking my camera in all kinds of difficult moments of their lives. This time, I pointed the camera at myself and my father. I wanted to talk about our complicated relationship and the difficult family history. To be the author and the character at the same time is extremely difficult. The lack if distance, a different stand on emotions. What I said might seem understandable, but the viewer can see it differently.
My film is an attempt to talk about difficult subjects, which may be relevant for many families. Almost always there are some secrets, misunderstandings, conflicts. There’s tension at times, even though we don’t know why. We try to find out, we ask questions pretty much at random. It’s good that the conversation with my father took place. But it has its’ costs at times.
These recent years, the Łoziński family have had a need to talk about themselves. Your brother Mikołaj has written “The Book” [Polish title: “Książka”], two years ago “Tonia and Her Children” had its’ triumph at the KFF, now it’s “Father and Son”.
I had a need as a son. I wanted to get to know something probably, maybe solve something. I wanted to have a deeper, more serious conversation with my father and most likely, I wouldn’t be able to do that without a camera. Film is my medium and my way to deal with difficult subjects. It happens very often, that when I don’t understand something or I can’t deal with it, I take out the camera and I make a film. I ask questions for myself, but also for the viewer.
You don’t understand something, so you put the camera, you start the conversation, the process of getting to know another person. And what if the other person isn’t willing to open up to you? In “Father and Son” there’s quite a lot of such situations: your father cuts the conversation short, puts the camera down, suspends the subject. The son asks further, more and more difficult questions. This way or another, it results in a confrontation, the son on one side and the father on the other. Weren’t you afraid that after this clash you’ll be seen as the bad one, the pushing one, who attacks the other with questions? Many viewers, especially after seeing Marcel’s version, will see him as the victim of this confrontation…
You know, you won’t know unless you ask. My films is not aimed at criticising my father, it’s a very warm portrayal of him. It’s been made in absolute respect towards the main character, whom I’ve ‘improved’ a bit, as I usually do in my films. The confrontation between generations is inevitable. But to tell you the truth, in our culture it’s the children are usually in the inferior position as opposed to the parents. There’s an automatic compliance to the fourth commandment: ‘Honour thy father’… It doesn’t necessarily work the same the other way round. Accusing the parents of something is seen as criticizing, which is a taboo. It’s forbidden, as it’s fundamental for the society. Anyone, who disobeys, whatever intention they might have, often has to face rejection. Because it disturbs the existing safe system. The children are supposed to listen their parents, obey, have no objections, show respect and take care of them till the end. The parents deserve it by definition, no matter what kind of parents they were. And where are the children in all this? The small ones and then the grown up ones? They will just bite their lip and pass it on to their children? I believe there’s a chance for a change in the generation’s awareness. Maybe it’s time to talk about it? That’s also what I wanted to make this film about.
My father never had the courage to have this conversation with his parents. I respect him for having the courage to talk with me.
The authors often talk about how such personal films become therapeutic. They mention what the film did for them, how it helped them. How was it in your case?
There’s one thing I realized after this family film adventure. You can’t try to get compensation from the other person, to try get out of them what you want to hear, that they’re sorry, that they made a mistake. Most likely, it won’t work. Even if there will be a declaration, the relation is still a relation. You can only try to deal with yourself and move on.
A film is a film and life is life. At the end of my film, there’s a joyful scene of standing on our heads, a real happy end. It’s a record of that moment, it was real. But then life went its’ own way, it gets different. That’s another message for the audience: it’s good to make it and talk with your parents. I made it, now it’s behind me. But these experiments can be costly, I don’t want to persuade anyone. I believe, I made it with some new facts about myself and my family relations. Paradoxically, that was unraveled when the camera was no longer with us.
You’ve mentioned some situations, where the camera wasn’t there. Previously, you planned to film your work at the editing table, but that didn’t work out. A year ago exactly, you were announcing your film together with your father at DOCS TO GO! in Krakow. Then you closed the door of the editing room behind you and you came out with two separate films. Now you’re competing at the Festival and your films are presented in separate sections. Was editing the most difficult stage, resulting in us watching two different versions?
I don’t understand why my father wouldn’t sign his name as a co-director of the film “Father and Son”. Why did he decide that he has to make a film of his own? You’d have to ask him about it. He didn’t agree for a camera inside the editing room either. There were really intense, uncontrolled emotions happening. If I had known, that against our agreement it would end with two films, I would’ve given the material to two different editors. The films would’ve been much more different from each other, for the benefit of the viewer. Now we’re competing with each other at one festival. For me it’s a difficult and unpleasant situation. But, there’s always a chance that the audience will get something from it.
Thank you for the conversation.