"Though I'm not very familiar with Bollywood, there are a few films that I really like. Monsoon Wedding is one of them," says noted filmmaker Tomasz Wasilewski, who is also on the jury at the Jio Mami 18th Mumbai Film Festival for the India Gold section. "I love this film, in fact I have a DVD of it at my home and I watch it from time to time, Mira Nair has done a fantastic job. I am really excited to come here (India) and watch Hindi films. I don't know a lot about Indian cinema yet, so I am open to the possibilities that cinema in India has to offer."
Wasilewski, 36, is one of the youngest talents to has taken the world of international cinema by storm. His 2016 film United States of Love won the Silver Bear for Best Script at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival. Just three films old, Wasilewski is becoming synonymous as the voice of the new European cinema with minimalistic cinematographic style and acute psychological portraits.
The India Gold section at Mami will have 13 films competing to be named the best in that category. The filmmaker spoke to Firstpost about his films, communism in his home country Poland, and much, much more:
Films and style:
Wasilewski tells us that the most important thing for him is portraying emotions effectively. "What is most important for me is portraying human beings in the moment of crisis. I always choose to portray the most difficult emotions. This is the most important thing for me, just portraying people, how could they behave, what could happen with their life. I usually choose to tell stories that have characters standing on the edge. I put them on the edge wondering if they are going to jump or they are going to take a step back to save themselves. "
What about his more visual style of cinematography that makes minimal use of dialogues? He explains, "Looking at people and just watching how they behave in the smallest gestures is 1000 times more interesting than dialogues. It is so much more interesting to see the body language of people who want to hide something or (are) even destroying something..."
"Because in real life, the body doesn’t lie, (in) these small intimate moments that the body makes. And it is these kinds of moments that tell me the truth about the characters, about people. To express these emotions better, I try and use master shots (a shot that includes all of the actors in the scene and runs the entire length of the action) and I never cut scenes. This of prime importance to catch the small, intimate moments of my character’s life. And I believe that those moments tell me much more about my characters than dialogues."
He tells us that he makes it a point to have highly stylised visual elements in his films to complement the mood of his characters. "I think my language of cinema is very realistic and documentative. But yes, the look is highly stylised," Wasilewski says. "Details are very important for my films, and that is why I like to compose my shots. I don’t like random things. Everything that you see in my films is something I want you to see. So my set designer Oleg Mutu and I compose each and every shot.The setting, the shot tells another story about my characters, the concrete world they live in."
"The set design is built in a way to reflect the emotions of my characters."
Wasilewski has never shied away from approaching sensitive topics in his films. His second film Floating Skyscrapers is a story about Kuba (Mateusz Banasiuk), a young sportsman, who lives with his mother (Katarzyna Herman) and girlfriend (Marta Nieradkiewicz). His life becomes complicated, when he meets Michał (Bartosz Gelner). The homosexual romance brings out all the heretofore hidden family animosities.
Wasilewski tells us he tries to choose a very difficult background for his characters, to make them more complex. "The background is not easy to define. It gives something more to my characters, something more something difficult to deal with. Those emotions are interesting to explore."
But he doesn't actually set out to make political or social films, he tells us. "I use politics and social problems in the film's background, and put human emotions in the forefront. This way I can tell a story with a humane viewpoint, and it has a very strong social message too."
But is he trying to underline a message of moral significance through his films? For Wasilewski, choosing a universal theme for his films is important, something that will resonate with people outside Poland too. "I do want to send a message out through my films that every human being is important, no matter what sex, no matter what religion, no matter place of origin, preferences. I don’t divide. Everyone should be equal all over the world."
Communism in Poland:
Tomasz Wasilewski's third film United States of Love, which was widely appreciated on the festival circuit, explores the story of four unhappy women just as the Soviet bloc (and communist regime) is crumbling in Poland in 1990.
He tells us, "It was very difficult, because till 1989, we were under the influence of the Soviet Union and under a communist regime. The Communist Party controlled everything. There was scarcity of food, we could only buy food with special coupons, there was nothing. Literally nothing. Then when we wanted to rebel, we were put under an intense martial law. It was a terrible time for Poland."
Wasilewski wanted to show the world how the pressure of communism affected people through United States of Love. The militant regime provided a turbulent, moody supplement to the unhappy lives of the four women. "As a 9-year-old child, I saw communism collapse in Poland. I saw what my parents' lives were like. So as a grown man, I tried to imagine what their lives were in a militant regime versus the choices they would have in the free, independent Poland. My parents couldn’t make the choices I could make as a free person, in a free country. I tried to imagine their choices in the film."
Wasilewski says he has been in love with cinema for as long as he can remember. "When I was a child, I started out with acting in a few productions; and I gradually discovered that I wanted to create films. I started creating my films from scratch. This was my dream, my passion; everything I did was to be a film director, that's all that ever mattered."
The welcome to India:
He tells us, "I have never been to India. It was my dream. I am really excited for the film festival."
What is he looking forward to at the Mami festival? "I am very curious about the culture, and how culture is portrayed in Indian cinema, and I'm very curious about the sensibility in cinema. How they feel, about the film language they use, I'm very curious about their imagination, their world. It's amazing to go and see films from India, because it's going to be a huge and exciting surprise for me, to go and meet these talented filmmakers," he says, signing off.