Kinoeye: New perspectives on European film

Vol 3
 Issue 2 
3 Feb

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Marcin Wrona's Czlowiek magnes (Magnet Man, 2002) POLAND
Man of magnets
Marcin Wrona interviewed

Wrona is still at film school, yet his short Cz這wiek magnes is winning him both awards and comparisons to Terry Gilliam. The director tells Izabela Kalinowska about his recent success, how little current Polish cinema interests him and where he's heading now.

Marcin Wrona may not be a household name, even in his native Poland. But the young director is starting to make waves. His short film Cz這wiek magnes (Magnet Man, 2002) won him the Student Award at last year's inaugural Tribeca Film Festival in New York. Wrona is a masters graduate of the film studies programme at the Institute of Audiovisual Arts, part of Krak闚's Jagiellonian University, and he is currently a fourth-year student at the Katowice film school, where he works under Jerzy Stuhr (who told Kinoeye last year that he would like Wrona to be the assistant director on his latest project, which is due to start shooting this March). He has also been admitted to Andrzej Wajda's newly formed School of Filmmaking.

I imagine that most Kinoeye readers are not yet familiar with your film Cz這wiek magnes How would you describe it?

Marcin Wrona at Clermont-Ferrand
Marcin Wrona at Clermont-Ferrand
My film tells the story of a son and his father. At one point in his life, the latter realizes that he has supernatural powers allowing him to heal others. From that moment on he does indeed help people, yet he is unable to take care of his own family or come to an understanding with those closest to him. The film is based on facts from my childhood.

Cz這wiek magnes takes the form of a collage; I combine many different film techniques, which brings the viewer closer to the circus of unconventional medicine and modern "shamanism." After the festival in New York, a reviewer for one of the American papers wrote that the film is reminiscent of a lost Terry Gilman project. I found that very flattering.

You tell the story of Cz這wiek magnes in a way that is very original in the context of contemporary Polish cinema. Do you identify with the Polish cinematic tradition? Or do you find your masters outside the world of Polish film?

I don't identify much with Polish cinema, because it doesn't currently produce the kind of films I like most. I think that Poland's film scene is going through a generational transformation. Filmmakers are attempting to find their own voice. But I have a great deal of respect for our cinematic tradition: the Polish school and the cinema of moral concern (kino moralnego niepokoju). Wajda, Polanski, and Kielowski are directors whom I truly appreciate. The films that inspired me most during the production of Cz這wiek magnes are Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas (1990) and Foutaisies (Things I Like, Things I Don't Like , 1989), a short directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the director of Le fabuleux destin d'Am幨ie Poulain (Am幨ie, 2001). I also like Mathieu Kassovitz's La Haine (Hate, 1995) very much.

Marcin Wrona's Czlowiek magnes (Magnet Man, 2002)The Tribeca festival award is a great accomplishment. Your film also won the main prize at the 2002 Etiuda film festival in Krak闚. What was Cz這wiek magnes route to Tribeca? Will these successes facilitate the realization of your new projects?

I learned about the Tribeca Film Festival from my friend Leo Gater [director of Andy Across the Water, 2002], whom I met at what is probably the most prestigious short film festival in EuropeClermont-Ferrand in France. Leo told me that Scorsese, De Niro, Levinson, Pacino, Hunt and other great people of world cinema were organizing something in New York. To me, Scorsese is the pope of the film world, and De Niro is my favorite actor, so I didn't hesitate before sending the tape. One day at dawn (European time) I got a call saying I'd be very welcome there.

Meeting so many great masters and authorities on cinema in one place was extraordinary, but I'm also happy for another reasonI got to be a part of an event that was meant to revive lower Manhattan after what had happened in September 2001. From my point of view, awards at film festivals come in handy, especially when talking to producers, because I'm no longer someone entirely anonymous to them. They also provide extra motivation for future work as they prove that what I'm doing makes sense.

Marcin Wrona's Czlowiek magnes (Magnet Man, 2002)Do you already have plans for your next film?

Yes, Gra篡na Trela [Polish actress turned scriptwriter] and I have written a script together. It's a contemporary story with a small cast (four people) which could take place anywhere. It examines the power and authority building mechanism using the example of a family. Right now I'm looking for funding outside Poland, among other places in the US. Maybe something will come out of this, there's already some level of interest in Poland. I hope this is something I will be working on next year. I'm also working on another story about young people in the suburbs of a large city, but that's still in the writing phase. I have also submitted a project to a young producer in Paris. We'll see...

You're part of a very small group of young filmmakers admitted to Andrzej Wajda's School of Filmmaking. How is this different from studying at the film school in Katowice?

This school doesn't just run workshops. The aim of the program is to help turn our full-length projects into a reality. This means teaching doesn't end at the close of the school year, but when you are on the set of your first film. Classes are centered around the scripts we work on and trial shots for particular projects. It's a year-long program that prepares you for your first film. This is something that no Polish producer would offer you right now. In the old times, the so called zespo造 filmowe (film units) in Poland served a similar function.

Izabela Kalinowska

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Also of interest
About the author

Izabela Kalinowska is an assistant professor in the Department of European Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at SUNY Stony Brook. She is currently working on a book about Polish cinema of the 1980s and 1990s.

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