"Body" World Premiere at Berlinale

The world premiere of BODY/CIAŁO (Body), the latest film by director Małgorzata Szumowska, took place on February 9 at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival. BODY/CIAŁO, a film co-financed by the Polish Film Institute, is screening in Berlinale’s Main Competition.

Body | Press Conference Highlights | Berlinale 2015

BODY/CIAŁO director/co-writer Małgorzata Szumowska, cinematographer/co-writer Michał Englert, actresses Maja Ostaszewska and Justyna Suwała, and actor Janusz Gajos were at the press conference before the film’s gala premiere. The press conference was moderated by Berlinale programmer Nikolaj Nikitin.

The Body as a Theme

“The script [took a long time to develop]. We started at the beginning with the idea of making a movie about anorectic girls, but pretty fast we rejected the idea of doing a movie only about anorexia. We found it too hermetic somehow. Too brutal, too violent in a way, […] to present that kind of closed world […] might not be understandable for the audience. That’s why we started to think about [the] body as a subject of the movie and the different relation[s] to the human body. [The] first idea was an anorectic girl, who turned, in the end, in the movie, into a bulimic […] The father, who has contact with dead bodies – it’s a kind of physical touch of death, I would say. And a woman who is searching for an ‘astro,’ the ghost, and doesn’t care about her physical body somehow. It’s like three aspects of [the] body,” said Małgorzata Szumowska at the press conference.

Filming the Invisible

“We wanted to film something that seems invisible, nonexistent in the physical form. BODY/CIAŁO is an attempt at portraying how these three spheres interact with each other. We knew that addressing this subject would involve something metaphysical and something very intimate […] We wanted to find a simple and intelligent way of showing that,” said Michał Englert.

“We had to find some perspective. We knew that the subject of the movie might be […] risky and it might turn into a pretentious or very attractive way of filming. We wanted to make this movie very raw [in] style, that’s why we decided to take a very natural perspective and we decided to shoot the movie with one lens. You don’t see reality in close-ups or wide-angle shots – you have your own perspective. That’s why we decided that we’ll go that way. If we want to […] see something closer, then we come closer with the camera,” said Englert at the press conference.

“We did not make a difficult film”

“We also chose not to make a difficult or overwhelming film. We wanted to make a sort of dark comedy with a bright side; particularly in the final scenes, we wanted to show something that gives hope,” said Szumowska. “I did not intend to mock certain attitudes, judge them, or make fun of people who believe in ghosts […]. We also wanted to show Polish reality and its absurdities. For us, the outcome is rather funny […]. We also wanted to show Warsaw, present the city and its architecture.”

Nikolaj Nikitin asked the filmmakers about casting. “What’s typical of my films is that I like to bring together professional and non-professional actors. I value working with professionals such as Janusz Gajos and Maja Ostaszewska, because I have the opportunity to draw on their rich experience, especially when I myself don’t know where I’m headed – then they are left to rely on their own intuition. And then there’s Justyna, whom we found via Facebook, and she is completely natural on camera. Working with her is like working on a documentary film. We like working with young people. In my previous film In the Name Of… it was a group of young men; here, it’s young women. It’s about interacting with someone young, who isn’t necessarily an actor. Someone who doesn’t have ready gestures, moves, which often makes them hold back on camera,” said Małgorzata Szumowska.

The Actors Discuss Working on the Film

“It was very difficult, but also interesting, to work on a part so different from myself. I completely changed my facial expressions, my gestures, my walk. I gained weight and changed my hair so that the differences between myself and the girls my character works with would be even more visible. I played with no make-up, because my character pays little attention to her appearance. I played in ugly dresses. I liked my character from the start. Anna is someone I truly like […]. For me and the director alike, it was important to be convincing, without going overboard,” said Maja Ostaszewska.

“I thought the idea was for the film to present a series of events – events that would serve as the key, or a way of perceiving the body. It was a difficult task, but I found it fascinating. I think we managed to covey it, especially as far as my cooperation with the director is concerned,” said Janusz Gajos.

“I never wanted to play in a major movie. Maybe that’s why I wasn’t stressed out by working with Janusz Gajos and Maja Ostaszewska. They were extremely supportive. For me, it was fun. We had a good time together. It was an amazing experience. Something new, but free of fear or stress,” said Justyna Suwała.

Variety, Screen Daily and The Hollywood Reporter on BODY/CIAŁO

BODY/CIAŁO has received great reviews from Variety, Screen Daily and The Hollywood Reporter; their critics expect the film to succeed in the festival circuit. “Daring, unpredictable, moving, intense,” tweeted Karel Och, artistic director of the Karlovy Vary IFF, immediately after the first screening of Body. The film is “a darkly comic rumination on what it means to be alive, how humans deal with loss and the question of what comes after,” according to Variety critic Peter Debruge.

“Body is fresh and original enough to attract some arthouse interest in selected territories,” writes Lee Marshall for Screen Daily, noting the similarities between Body and the films of Krzysztof Kieślowski. “A quirky, intriguing drama with supernatural overtones sees […] Malgorzata Szumowska shift into an unexpected, and refreshing, darkly comic mode,” notes Marshall, focusing on Janusz Gajos’ performance. Lee Marshall also writes: “balanced neatly between ghost story and family drama, scepticism and belief, Body is an intriguing study of imperfect bodies in an imperfect world, and the tricks the mind plays to make things better.” The reviewer for The Hollywood Reporter notes that “performances are strong from all three principals,” and states that “promising newcomer [Justyna] Suwała is especially memorable.”

“A Simple, Clear, and Consistent Film”

“This is the best and most complete film by Małgorzata Szumowska,” writes Małgorzata Sadowska in her review. According to this Newsweek film critic, Body is a film “helmed with a certain lightness of touch, but one that carries some weight; a simple, clear, and consistent film. The body of Poland is crippled, yet treated with tenderness,” writes Sadowska.

“[This film is] the biggest accomplishment of the Polish director who is capable of exposing insecurity and weakness of things that appear obvious better than anyone. Her film is a dry look at the paradoxes of life and behaviour of people who are forced to face and come to terms with death. Szumowska expertly handles the fears of her protagonists, questioning their faith and forcing them to address facts that cannot be rationally explained,” writes Janusz Wróblewski for Polityka.

Polish Film Screening in Main Competition

BODY/CIAŁO at Berlinale is screening in Main Competition and will be judged by international jury members Darren Aronofsky (head of the jury), Daniel Brühl, Bong Joon-ho, Martha De Laurentiis, Claudia Llosa, Audrey Tautou, and Matthew Weiner. The film is in the running for the following awards: the Golden Bear for Best Film, the Silver Bear for Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress, Best Script, the Alfred Bauer Prize for opening new perspectives on cinematic art, and awards for best photography, music, editing, and costume design.

Further details are available at: www.berlinale.de.

Małgorzata Szumowska’s BODY/CIAŁO, co-financed by the Polish Film Institute, will be released theatrically in Poland on March 6. Distribution in Poland is handled by Kino Świat.

Marta Sikorska

Translated by Karolina Kołtun