Interview with Grzegorz Jarzyna
Director of "No Matter How Hard We Tried"
Karlovy Vary 2015 - East of the West Competition
Name: Maarja Hindoalla
Grzegorz Jarzyna's highly satirical film No Matter How Hard We Tried, based on the popular theatre play of the same name, explores the disputes cracking contemporary Polish society and draws a sarcastic picture of a nation torn between proud nationalism and collective (pseudo-) embarrassment.
Why did you decide to make No Matter How Hard We Tried into a film as well?
We're a quite experimental contemporary theatre and we're searching for new places to show our plays. That was one of the experimental works we would like to show in terms of having a different audience and a different perception for theatre.
The film is higly critical towards Polish society. What would you say are the biggest problems in Poland right now?
There are many subjects which Dorota Masłowska is touching in this play and what interests me very much is that Polish people are not used to such criticism. Rather we play people who are somehow victims of the history and suddenly a young woman is criticizing our behaviour and makes fun of it, but in a smart way.
Can you point out from that myriad any specific issues which are important for you personally?
What I love about the play is that it's general, she's the critic of the whole society. There are different levels of society which are critized, it's not that only the nouveau riche or artists are criticised, some of the poor people are very critised as well. All of them have some rights to complain, but she's laughing about our complaining in fact and our inspiration to be Europe already with our very difficult social manners.
Is it that awful being Polish?
Of course it's awful to be Polish. It's awful to be French or British or Czech too. It's awful to be stuck to some nationalistic description. I'm Polish, but I never presume that I have a Polish nature and Polish attitude, I think there isn't such big distinction between nationalities. When we are afraid of other nations, we stick to our nation more and try to pretend to be very proud of our history, culture and language. Masłowska's quite patriotic actually. She's young and patriotic and she would like to see Poland as a different land, much more open, liberal, without any problems from the past and I admire such an attitude.
No Matter How Hard We Tried has very quaint visuals. Why did you choose this kind of style?
In theatre I pay very much attention to the set, music, lighting and video. I like very much this world that is created, which doesn't exist in real life and has this type of imaginary. But in this project I would say the main thing is the actors and what they speak. The rest of the film- which is sad music, costumes etc, - is the background for me. The most significant for theatre is the dialogue, this movie is full of fast, rapid dialogue. It's based on the dialogue and the meaning of this play is so important for me, that I decided to rather go with the meaning and words, not the pictures.
I saw quite a few people leaving the cinema hall 15 minutes into the film. What have the audience reactions been like so far?
It's always interesting how the audience is reacting to my projects. I'm never thinking about the audience in the beginning and just trying to achieve what I feel that is best thing. And then there is a very interesting moment when I present it and see how they react. I imagine that it's quite difficult to get it, especially in a different country when you don't understand the language and the text is going very fast. I never thought it would be a project which would be shown abroad so I was surprised. In Poland their reaction was very good. Mostly people laughing all the time.
Nobody felt insulted?
Not really, because it's funny at the same time. As a spectator you have this kind of empathy towards these people. So even when they criticize us, we feel that empathy. You find your shadow in the character.
From the last scene I kind of got the feeling, that if someone, especially a young person is denying their roots and cut themselves free, they end up floating around aimlessly in the world.
I think that Polish people are thinking too much about their roots all the time and talking about the history and what happened in the past and how much it reflects on nowadays. What you're saying about cuting off their roots- I think young people are doing it in a good way in Poland. I would like to see how society is thinking about the future, not all the time about their roots. Poland is so rooted and proud about the history and so much thinking about what happened, that I think Poland lost the thinking about the future and they're not enough open and liberated. I'm talking mainly about the politicians of course, because they create our society.