September 9 at the Venice International Film Festival marked the world premiere of 11 minut (11 Minutes), a film directed by Jerzy Skolimowski and co-financed by the Polish Film Institute. This Polish-Irish co-production is screening in the festival’s Main Competition.

11 minut (11 Minutes)

The same eleven minutes in the lives of various protagonists are shown through parallel storylines. Before the last second of the eleventh minute is up, their fates are brought together by an event that will have a huge impact on their lives. The film was written and directed by Jerzy Skolimowski, lensed by Mikołaj Łebkowski, and features performances by Andrzej Chyra, Dawid Ogrodnik, Wojciech Mecwaldowski, Agata Buzek, Jan Nowicki, Piotr Głowacki, Richard Dormer, and Ifi Ude.

International Co-Production Co-Financed by the Polish Film Institute

11 minut (11 Minutes) is a co-production between Poland and Ireland, produced by Skopia Film, co-produced by Element Pictures, Telewizja Polska, Orange, HBO, and Fundacja Tumult, and co-financed by the Polish Film Institute, Eurimages, and the Irish Film Board.

Press Conference

The film’s press conference was also held on September 9, with director Jerzy Skolimowski, producer Ewa Piaskowska and actors Paulina Chapko and Wojciech Mecwaldowski attending. The film was very warmly received by members of the press present at the press conference.

From the End to the Beginning

“I enjoyed making this film, working with that group of people. They were great. The painful period was writing the script. When I started writing the script, I had only this finale in mind. I started with the very end and then, moving backwards, I tried to create the characters and the situations which would allow me to bring that group of people to that very place in that very moment,” said Jerzy Skolimowski.

11 minut (11 Minutes)

“The title of the films is 11 Minutes. These eleven minutes are from 5:00pm to 5:11pm. I thought: whatever I have to do in the prologue, which is earlier than 5 o’clock, I should do it in a different style. This a different part of the film. So I used the phone, iPad, CCTV camera, just to make it different from the real film which takes place from 5 o’clock,” said Jerzy Skolimowski about the making of the film.

Universal Story Set in Warsaw

The plot of Jerzy Skolimowski’s latest feature is set in Warsaw. Members of the international press were curious about the choice of location. “I believe this is a quite universal story. It could happen in any place, at any time practically. I shot it in Warsaw, because it was the most convenient for me. I live in Warsaw now. And I know the town myself. It was easy for me to pick the right places. I made my own observations about life in Warsaw,” said Jerzy Skolimowski.

The Film’s Finale

Jerzy Skolimowski also addressed questions regarding the meaning of the film’s finale. “The film and the finale have to be like this — to give that warning, that understanding that everything can happen in the next minute, in the next second. This is the message of this film. Life is such a treasure — we [only] understand the kind of treasure it is when practically losing that life. Let’s use it the best we can while we are alive,” said Skolimowski.

The Value of Time

Wojciech Mecwaldowski, who played one of the leads in the film, also shared some of his thoughts on the film: “We rarely realize how precious the time we have really is. We often follow our imagination, rather than real life, which is what led my character in the wrong direction — he followed his imagination, rather than reality. We should appreciate this time and what we have here and now, rather than what’s in our heads.”

In 11 minut (11 Minutes) Mecwaldowski and Paulina Chapko played a married couple. “We didn’t know much about these characters: who they are, what they’re like, what’s important to them. Of course, Wojtek and I asked ourselves hundreds of these questions as we worked on the project. We had the answers to all these questions in our heads. We had to focus very hard on the characters, because the point was to take our characters through those eleven consecutive minutes of their lives, until the very end. This feeling of time flashing by, the realisation of how little time we have, was incredible. And how important everything was. Every gesture. How we look at each other. How we walk, how we laugh,” said Paulina Chapko about the making of the film.

International Co-Production Supported by the Polish Film Institute

“The budget of the film is about two million euros. We [filmed] it in Warsaw. We were lucky to work with people we know. We’ve been blessed with our fantastic Irish co-producer, The Element Pictures. We’ve worked with them before, on Essential Killing. Through them, we got the Irish Film Board on board. And we managed to get Eurimages funding, which was very helpful, and the Polish Film Institute, which is a really unbeatable body of people working, supporting film, and giving real money which is a huge feat for the whole co-production process,” said producer Ewa Piaskowska.

First Reviews of the Film

The first reviews of 11 minut (11 Minutes) have already appeared in Polish and international press.

Il Sole 24 Ore: The Power of Image and Sound

“With an impressive power of image and sound, Skolimowski creates a high voltage thriller where the suspense grows with the passage of minutes and the audience is not given a moment’s rest. The editing is perfectly timed, and even slow motion is used impeccably; what’s even more striking is a reflection on the banality of the meaning of the image in today’s world: the real and the virtual are intertwined, while any apocalyptic threat might as well be represented by a dead pixel, and vice versa.

A lesson in cinema — both anarchist and strict in its own way, while also strengthened by a powerful finale. Many of those present in Venice, especially on social media, are already clamouring for an award, which — once again — would be much deserved,” writes Andrea Chimento for Italy’s Il Sole 24 Ore.

Gazeta Wyborcza: Candidate for the Golden Lion

According to Gazeta Wyborcza’s Tadeusz Sobolewski, “11 Minutes truly deserves the Lion. We have yet to see a better candidate.” In the his review for Gazeta Wyborcza, Sobolewski writes: “the film tugs at many strings — be it our national fears that date back to the Second World War, Stalin and more recent events such as 9/11, the fears of communism and capitalism, but also the more universal fear of the unknown. [Skolimowski’s] poignant vision of Warsaw and the intertwining human fates, into which we are drawn suddenly — fates that catalogue the most mundane of transgressions — create a basis for the director of Identification Marks: None, Barrier and Hands Up! writes his own story. The world breaks down into pixels. We await the finale, feeling at peace. If someone asked what is the message of 11 Minutes, I would say it’s peace rather than action. This film both mimics and brutally parodies action movies.”

Tadeusz Sobolewski also notes where the film is set. “This film is set in a meticulously staged Warsaw environment, which is also clear to the foreign viewer: Warsaw as an apocalyptic place. The story is set mostly around Plac Grzybowski. The church bells of the Church of All Saints are ringing. The Palace of Culture peeks out from behind the skyscrapers. An airplane roars past the glass building of downtown Warsaw, as if flying too low. These shots emphasise our subliminal feeling of insecurity. We can sense the fragility of the peace and prosperity we’re enjoying these days. It is at once a summary of our contemporary fears, and an answer to these fears.

Paulina Bez

Translated by Karolina Kołtun