INTERVIEW WITH MARTA MINOROWICZ, DIRECTOR OF “DECRESCENDO”
“A decrescendo is in fact a crescendo, because the less time we have got left, the more meaningful everything is, and emotions become more intense” - says Marta Minorowicz, author of short documentary film “Decrescendo”.
How did the idea for the film come up? Was it the character of young psychologist Tomek that was the starting point, or was it the rest home?
Marta Minorowicz: It was the rest home. It is an incredible place surrounded by a beautiful garden, it has almost 500 residents, and it is located near the city centre, but with a completely different energy. One could say that time does not exist there; the house is rife with the residents’ reminiscences, filled with their stories. Remarkable.
How long did the filming take and how much time did you need to accustom the residents of the rest home with the presence of the camera?
M. M.: Before starting filming, I visited the rest home for a few months on my own looking for characters for the film. At this stage I had already received a lot of help from Tomasz Potaczek, thanks to whom I could find my bearings in the maze of corridors, rooms, and beds. The filming took around 30 days, which were extended throughout the whole year. Almost every month along with Paweł Chorzępa, camera operator, Dominika Czakon and Jasiek Moszumański, who operated sound by turns, we would spend 2-3 days in the rest home shooting material. Every one of the subjects responded to the presence of the camera in an individual manner, e.g., persuading Włodzimierz – a ballet artist – to accede to filming took me half a year, and it took consecutive 2-3 months for him to get accustomed to the camera and “learn” how to forget about its presence.
Apart from psychologist Tomasz, the film’s narrative also distinguishes a few other characters from within the rest home’s residents. Were they to appear as more developed characters from the very beginning, or was it through the nature of their characters that the film took a particular direction?
M. M.: I knew from the beginning that Zosia, whom we called “Philosopher”, Włodzimierz, a ballet artist, and blind Tomek would act as very important characters, as they were for the psychologist, Tomasz. This determined the direction of the film, and this is why these people are distinguished from the other residents.
What effect did you want to achieve by placing a young person in the milieu of elderly people? Was it to emphasise the contrast, construct the film’s message, or possibly show that the two seemingly distant worlds are very close to one another?
M. M.: The rest home is a natural working environment for Tomasz, so I did not have to induct him to it. Why did Tomek become one of the film’s protagonists? Because from the beginning I found that he is very interesting; whereas at the same time he could successfully be doing a thousand other things, he spends time with his patients, talks with them, takes them outside. What keeps him there? I do not think I have found a conclusive answer. However, it seems to me that Tomek gives his all in dealing with his patients, and he receives a lot in return. This is why he is still there. This exchange of experience, the flow of energy, is a good lesson for us. The immensity of the elderly people’s wisdom or knowledge is often free for the taking. You give something of yourself, but you receive much more in return. I hope that Tomasz’s presence demonstrates how many feelings and ardent emotions elderly people hold beneath the surface. His presence alone made them emerge. Because he is young. Because he is the reflection of themselves 40 years back, the image that they remembered and preserved. Thanks to him the ballet artist felt like dancing again, and Zosia yielded to make new acquaintances. It can appear to us that elderly people are kind of dormant, and unresponsive to stimuli, but, in defiance of their age, the “Decrescendo” characters are still full of passion and hunger for life. It is incredible that, in this respect, the “young” and the “old” are no different. This decrescendo is in fact a crescendo, because the less time we have got left, the more meaningful everything is, and emotions become more intense.
Has making this documentary film consolidated your approach to old age and passing, or the contrary – it has considerably changed it ?
M. M.: In the film Zosia tells Tomasz something that meant a lot to me. “How beautiful this tree is. It has lost all decor, and yet it still delights,” she says. This sentence, in my opinion, says it all about old age and passing. I really want to believe that beauty can be saved even after losing the decor.
Did you, as a documentary film-maker being so close to another person and his/her emotions, face any dilemmas during the making of "Decrescendo" that influenced the final version of the film?
M. M.: The fundamental dilemma was whether I should show the whole naturalism that accompanies old age and the life a rest home, or rather avoid it and look for different ways of showing old age. Should I shock the viewer with unsightliness, or walk a different path? I chose the latter. And much of the material was instantly deleted when I thought that it would rob the "Decrescendo" characters of their privacy.
Marta Minorowicz was interviewed by Olga Słowiakowska.
(Translation by Agnieszka Mruk)