Berlinale starts today. "Kill it and leave this town" - the first feature-length production by one of the most important Polish animated film-makers, Mariusz Wilczyński, will have its premiere screening in the competition section Encounters, On this ocassion we recall the ineterview with the director for "Focus on Poland" in 2016 when he was working on the film.

Jerzy Armata: What do you consider to be your biggest success to date?

Mariusz Wilczyński: That I’ve always worked on my own terms. All that I did, and still do, is my own creation and is done without compromising my integrity as an artist. This is what I understand by integrity; I’m not a militant

artist, and I’m not interested in short‑term perspective in art, but in universal values. I’ve always done what I wanted, and the way I wanted. Even when I worked on commercial formats, like visual art for TVP Kultura, nobody meddled; I was working on my own ideas only. As far as films are concerned, I didn’t know how to make them, and I was inventing my own methods... Recently, I was asked to establish a faculty of animated film at the Łódź Academy of Fine Arts. It’s flattering, but frankly, when it comes to filmmaking I’m still an amateur.

To be honest, sometimes you would re‑invent some things that had already been invented a long time ago, but you also had some very original ideas, for instance the changing frame size, which was a product of a graphic artist’s way of thinking rather than a filmmaker’s.

This was natural for me, I was a painter, and all painters choose the size and shape of the canvas based on what they want to paint. The first person who noticed and appreciated my attempts to narrate by changing how the shots were framed in terms of size and proportions was a world‑famous animation artist Witold Giersz. He called them pioneering and compared their importance to the revolutionary step that was replacing contour drawing with contourless patches of colour a few decades back. I couldn’t have received a better recommendation. I graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts, I never attended any film schools, so I came up with everything on my own. Like performances combining graphic art and music, when I draw and make animation to music created live by great artists. And I’m satisfied that all this somehow – on my own limited scale – got noticed. My films were screened at relevant festivals, Kizi Mizi appeared at the Berlinale and in Annecy, I had a retrospective exhibition in the Museum of Modern Art as well as other institutions, and I gave performances in many prestigious locations in New York, Rio de Janeiro, Geneva, Paris, Nantes, Warsaw. Recently, I performed live in Tokio before an audience of five thousand people with Sinfonia Varsovia and Tokio Symphony Orchestra, with live broadcast on a Japanese public television channel NHK. My performance art also appeared on German ARTE and Polish TVP Kultura. It is important for an artist to reach people with his art. But the most important thing for me is that I do things my own way, and if I don’t know how, I come up with my own ways. Like in that song by Tadeusz Nalepa: ‘I must find a road,/that nobody has ever taken, /and if it doesn’t exist, I’ll create it...’. This is what I do, on my own modest scale.

Stop being so modest. You have a sizeable number of faithful fans, and thanks to your performances with great artists like, for instance, Tomasz Stańko, Leszek Możdżer, Michał Urbaniak, and Wojciech Waglewski, you’ve become very popular. But for me, what is essential is that your style is instantly recognisable, you’ve become a classic of animated film – you even teach it at the Łódź Film School, where you never studied – and an artist who perfectly combines three forms of art: visual art, music, and film.

In my life, I’ve been lucky to meet great artists: the late Tadeusz Nalepa, a wonderful blues singer and guitar player and a fantastic person, with whom I even shared a flat for a short while. And Tomasz Stańko, a genius jazz trumpet player, who’s been a friend of mine for twenty years. We’ve already made three films together, and we have plans for the fourth. I’m planning to use Tadeusz Nalepa’s music in the film that I’m currently working on, Kill It and Leave The Town. The third important figure for me is professor Stanisław Fijałkowski, one of the greatest Polish artists of the second half of the 20th century. Just like Jerzy Nowosielski was the greatest painter, I would say that Stanisław Fijałkowski is the greatest graphic artist. The fact that I have an opportunity to offer him my assistance – he is now 94 years old – is a great privilege. Great artists have always been my role models. Fijałkowski in painting, Nalepa in music, and both of them in life.

Reportedly, you’ve already spent nearly ten years working on Kill It and Leave The Town.

In 2007, I had a retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art and I remember having two ideas in mind: Kill It and Leave The Town, and an adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Marguerita. The curators in New York very much liked the idea of adapting this wonderful novel for screen, since it has a potential for attracting a lot of attention. But I opted for the first idea: it was a decision that came from the heart. From the point of view of my artistic career, I should have chosen The Master and Marguerita, going with the momentum. However, I decided to deal with my old wounds first, which was imperative – putting it somewhat dramatically – for my soul. The film tells about a hard moment in life when you lose all people close to you. At least this was what happened to me. At the time, I started escaping to the land of memories, in my head I was meeting with people who weren’t here anymore. I felt safe there, but another reality existed next to me, while I was dangerously drifting away to that safe zone. I crawled into my own shell, and I began losing hold of the things around me. I decided to make a film about it, to work through the  memories, to make them into a beautiful package and then leave it behind somewhere on the coral reef...

In terms of production, this film is an immense undertaking. The cast includes leading Polish actors, with voice‑overs by Andrzej Wajda, Zbigniew Rybczyński, Tomasz Stańko, Zbigniew Boniek... There are also those who are no longer with us, like Irena Kwiatkowska, Gustaw Holoubek, Tadeusz Nalepa.

Making this film has been a wonderful adventure, a meeting with many great artists and great personalities, like Andrzej Wajda. For me, it’s also been a lesson in humility. In a way, this film outgrew me; it became wiser than me, rich with the experience, wisdom and talent of all those worderful people. And once again, I made it my own way. Anywhere in the world, when you make an animated film, you start by editing the image, and only then you make voice‑overs. I did it the other way round, I made the soundtrack first. And then you started to ‘add’ images; but thanks to your method, you still managed to record people like the late Irena Kwiatkowska, who gave voice to one of the main characters.

Do you plan on producing your next film, The Master and Marguerita, in the same manner?

This time, I will start with music, since it’s going to be a musical film.

Kill It and Leave The Town will be, in a way, about the past; is The Master and Marguerita going to focus on the future?

Generally speaking, all my films to date were about myself. I’d like Kill It and Leave The Town to be the last in this series. Then, I just want to make film adaptations of literary works. Obviously, they will be filtered through perspective, but Bulgakov will stay Bulgakov. It is going to be a story about a certain kind of paranoia. Present times have made my idea once again up‑to‑date. Nefarious forces came to Earth to spread evil, but it turned out that we’ve already done so much evil to each other that they can only spread goodness. The devil that came from the outside to punish people found out that his work has already been done for him, so basically all he has left to do are good deeds.

Marius z Wilczyński – screenwriter, visual designer and film director, maker of animated films, music videos, short TV forms; painter, graphic artist, scenographer, actor, teacher. Engages in artistic activities combining different forms of art (musical/visual/film performance art). Graduated from the Faculty of Painting and Graphic Design at the Academy of Fine Arts in Łódź (1986). Teaches at the Łódź Film School. Retrospective  exhibitions of his work were held, among others, in New York, Berlin, Brasilia. His graphic art and films received many awards e.g. in Arnhem, Chicago, Yokohama, New York, and Paris.

Source: "Focus on Poland" Magazine 3 (1/2016)