How did it happen that the famous Polish actor Robert Wieckiewicz appears in your movie as the main character?
Me and Janusz Marganski, the co-writer of “Courage”, meet Robert Wieckiewicz in one workshop several years ago. So, during that workshop we decided to write a script with him as the main character in mind. At that time the concept of the movie looked different. At first, it was a short story written by Cezary Harasimowicz. I wanted to write a script based on it, but it did not work for me. Then I meet Janusz who said that we should drop everything and leave only the incident in the train. Then we were looking for another conception for the story, which could still express this feeling that I had when I was reading that short story. Originally the novel is about two students who are going by train and facing such incident. We changed the characters, the circumstances, we left only the incident.
So, how did the work with him go?
He is an actor who proposes really much as well as Gabriela Muskała (she plays Viola, the wife of Alfred). They are really great couple together. They both are actors who are never cheating. They are using the whole themselves for the role. Robert, for example, was working on his character all the time while we were shooting. In the beginning, when we were preparing for the filming, he said that I should look out, because later he will know more about this character than I know. (Smiling) There were some points which I saw essential for the film, so we were always discussing, arguing or trying out these points with Robert.
The idea of your protagonist is kind of reversed to compare with the classical one – he is not a hero, but rather a loser. Why did you have this idea?
I sympathize with people like that. It is more difficult to live and to confront the others for them. But the most difficult thing is to confront yourself and your own weaknesses. The film reflects what is recognizable for everybody – how difficult it is to deal with yourself, to synchronize your real self and the image of yourself. The image often is really different from who you are in reality, how other people see you. This dissonance makes people suffer. In a way, the film is a search for truth.
Has the story something personal?
You must always find something personal, otherwise you cannot tell the story. The story is not true and I never lived through something like that. But I recognize the character`s disappointment of himself. I have been disappointed about my behaviour in some situations when I did not re-act where should have done that. When I read this short story, it touched exactly this point.
There an impressive scene in the church. This is a scene where the protagonist is judged by the society, although the church should be the place of forgiveness. It is also a kind of inversion. As we know, Poland is very catholic. Did you have in mind some criticism for the society and its belief?
We discussed this with J. Marganski – it is really difficult to talk about the church in films, it is a complicated topic and everybody has his personal approach to it. We did not want to step into that. We just wanted to show that it is a place where things are possible – where you can meet and confront yourself. For me, this scene was the point in which the main character was ready to give up his lies and confess: “I was not fighting, I did not do anything, I just could not.” Of course, in contrast, other people are looking at him and judging… In the script we had an idea that there will be a video camera above the altar, which sees everything as the Eye of God. But on the set I realized that this would be too much… This scene is also a scene were the character is watched by everybody, also by his conscience and by God. He is seen as he is. Then his relationship with God is very personal.
I have read an interpretation of your film where it was said that the younger brother Jerzy is a personification America and Alfred – of Europe. What do you thing about such interpretations?
I like to put references in the films, so viewers might develop some interpretations. I really had this “America/Europe” in mind. Jerzy has studied in US and he represents the lifestyle of it. And Alfred represents the other kind of lifestyle – I would rather say it is Easter European, post-communist. We have hidden a lot of smaller themes in the story. I put spotlights on different aspects of complex situations and I like to hear what others think about it. It is like an invitation for a discussion.
You are a former student of Krzysztof Kieslowski. Do you feel his influence on your directing work, on picking themes etc?
Not directly, but he has influenced me for sure… The critics should tell about his influences for me. (Smiling) K. Kieslowski was my artistic supervisor for one year in the film school. From him I heard several sayings which have helped me a lot. It is some particular things. He always talked particularly, never in general. And about the topics – I was watching his films, because he talked about the things which interested me. Of course, I have learnt about the importance of awareness in filmmaking from him. For example, that first of all filmmaking is a craft and that whatever you do, you must be able to tell why are you doing that. You should be strict.