What was the initial idea of making this film?
I met Ewa in Krakow about seven years ago. We lived two blocks from each other. Since the first glance she attracted me like a magnet. After many failed approaches and then through strange coincidences I finally break the ice and start to visit them. I discover the existence of Piotr and a few things about their life. We mainly develop a human relation based on the present. Of course i have photographed them, I collected their childhood pictures, i helped them in the everyday activities. But then when I ask something in detail their answer were always different. I can sense that their relation with memory was a mix of fantasy and reality where the borders are very open to interpretation. So, facts are always so important? What memory is? Why a decay? And so what? Life is beautiful and impossible; contradictions are everywhere and fighting is a possibility to get out but what winning is I really don’t know. To describe all this photographs were not enough. I thought was necessary to give them their own words.
Lorenzo, you are coming from photography: what was the challenge and your vision in exploring the moving image?
In general I dont care about technical differences and I’m not obsessed with tools. I firmly believe that in my life what is the most important is to communicate and be radically on my needs and ideas. I should have something to say through what I do otherwise I’d be ‘decorative’, and I’m not interested in that. So, the moving image was to me the best way to express Ewa and Piotr world from that perspective and I did it. I’ve tried to learn the basics, and I’ve tried to develop a precise idea about what i want to do. But again, nowadays more than ever, it is important to have something to say and then find the most real way to express it. For me real means true, and it’s not litteral. Moving image was necessary. Then i will probably continue to do that or it will be a single experience, I can’t say. The big difference is to work in a group and write a screenplay – those were the harder things to do – but it enriches me a lot. The moving image requires a different kind of precision which is extremely challenging.
Which is the relation between the archive pictures of the past of Ewa and Piotr and the moving images from today? And can you describe the relation to their life-stories? To their past?
There are two poles far away in time. A golden age and a stinky present. Then a big question mark in the middle. I can talk about some facts, I can tell you that they were rich and then waste a fortune, I can talk about a disfunctional family, about alchool, communist times or about a falling Empire. All this is important but also marginal, because every single person has an intimate relation with his own story and with History as well as with his own sense of decay that not necessarily goes together with the status symbols or any genre of social comfort you can fill your life with. So, to answer the questions: there’s a past, there are roots and origins and there’s a present, as simple as it is. Then we all deal with that individually. Ewa and Piotr do that, I do the same, everybody does it or try to. It’s hard to understand something definitive, that’s why it is more about trying and that’s why the present time is so important: it can be hard but it’s real, it’s the first emergency… Our film is hard but has no judgement. Not at all. I hope their life story would move the audience to consider what they see of course but also what is – metaphorically – involved in an own intimate relation with time passing, decay, memory and sense of loss.
You worked on the sound and music with the Austrian musician Christian Fennesz. Fennesz is known for his guitar-based sampled electronic music. What was the dea behind this choice? And at what point did Christian enter the project?
The use of sound and music is for me fundamental. I can say my formation is much more influenced by music than anything else. My dearest friend Giorgio Mortari – the director and founder of Dissonanze Festival in Rome – joined the project since the beginning and after watching the footage said: ‘No doubts, Christian Fennesz is our man’. I mean, we knew from the beginning that we don’t want a typical documentary sound. It was obvious that the value and the specificity of this project is in his experimental soul. I want something hybrid, a project where the moving image lived together with music, sound, photography and hopefully literature. Together but keeping every individuality independent. I don’t know and I don’t care about the rules of documentary: the sound should add a feeling of being in the space but not just that and – because of film-making is a group work where everybody is doing his own thing – then I want to have an excellence – as Christian Fennesz is – feeling free to push his unique talent in distorsion and minimalism in the creation of the soundtrack. Christian is a special man and understood very well what we wanted to do and what he did went over any expectations. This is an example of perfect collaboration.
Which role plays the scene when Piotr reads Dostojevski in the film?
Piotr beside being a very hard drinker is also a very fine literature and art connoiseur. He’s the person who talked to me about Joyce’s Ulysses with more passion and enthusiasm than I’ve ever experienced. This is just an example, but when I gave him a new edition of that book his eyes were brighting filled of happiness, like a kid that received his favourite toy. There’s a contradiction, of course. And I didn’t visit them and did this film to explain this contradiction because I’m not able to do it. But what I can do is to say: ‘Look at that, think about it…’. Piotr eyes are on fire when he reads Dostoevsij even if to him is a big effort to keep the concentration and keep on reading for us. But he did want to do that, despite his sister is constantly trying to bring the attention on herself being so nasty and annoying. This scene is important because reveal a fundamental side of Piotr personality – he’s not just another alchoolic – and at the same time underlines a philosofical question that we really care about. How define something? What is good? Is it worth to feel in the middle of the extremes keep on doubting instead of going for easy safety? Oh yes, it is worth to me but then you need strength and desire to fight. And you will never know what will happen in the end.
Can you say something about the dark side of the project about the relation between beauty and the abyss? And could you describe the essential message of the film?
Mmmmm…. Dostoevskij through Piotr’s voice explain that very well, much better than what I can do with my own words. The only thing I can say is that I’m not looking for safety. If I do something it means I have to – and this is something that I should first check and deal with myself : through the years I understood unconsciously that when I do something it always involves tension, extremes: that is what is interesting to me and what I want to communicate to the outside. I feel so many pushes inside my heart, some are good some are horrible. Fighting demons – I’m afraid – is a crucial aspect in life, at least in mine. I hope this film can be as disturbing as beautiful.
How beauty and horror can live together? Is it possible? What is the way out? Is there a way out?
I don’t know. What really move me to be so close to Ewa and Piotr are what we have in common on a deep level, not our differences. If I had answers I would probably have a completely different life and I would probably do something very different. Fighting and questioning is what I believe is all about. By the way, the Dostojevski reading is not anymore in the film but I hope the meaning of what was said is in it more then before.