An actress and model, born on the 20th of September 1976 in Pyskowice. One of the leading film actresses of her generation in Poland.
Before matriculating at the Warsaw Theatre Academy, she attended an amateur ballet school and Dorota Pomykała's acting school in Katowice.
Buzek made her screen debut in 1997 in the Television Theatre play Perła / The Pearl directed by Piotr Mikucki, which was based on Madame de La Fayette's 17th century novel. Her film debut came that same year in Robert Gliński's Kochaj i rób co chcesz / Love Me and Do Whatever You Want. Two years later she graduated from the Warsaw Theatre Academy and played in Moralność pani Dulskiej / The Morality of Mrs. Dulska at Ateneum Theatre in Warsaw - one of the few theatre roles before switching to film and television. While some critics owed her sudden fame in great part to her father, then the Prime Minister of Poland, with time she managed to make a name for herself on her own through the quality of her performances.
Agata Buzek took part in many Polish and international productions, including La ballata dei lavavetri / The Window Cleaners' Ballad directed by Peter del Monte (Italy, 1998), Libre circulation / Open Borders directed by Jean-Marc Moutout (France, 2002), and Valerie directed by Birgit Möller (Germany, 2007). She also starred in films made by well-known directors, including Krzysztof Zanussi's Skarby ukryte / The Hidden Treasure (2000), Andrzej Wajda's Zemsta / The Revenge (2002) for which she was nominated Best Supporting Actress at the Polish Film Awards, Peter Greenaway's Nightwatching (2007), and Marleem Gorris's Within the Whirlwind (2008). The leading role in Borys Lankosz's widely acclaimed film Reverse (2009) earned Agata Buzek the award for Best Actress at the 34th Polish Film Festival in Gdynia and at the 12th Polish Eagle Awards that same year.
Although Buzek's breakthrough came with Robert Gliński's romantic comedy, it was the part of Klara played in Andrzej Wajda's film adaptation of Aleksander Fredro's 19th century comedy The Revenge which gave her the nomination for the Polish Eagle award. She continued to work in film productions - and as a fashion model - until the success of Borys Lankosz's Reverse finally brought her vast recognition and a number of awards, including Best Actress at the 2010 Polish Film Festival in Gdynia.
In an interview with Magda Sendecka for the monthly Kino, Buzek observed:
In Fredro's times, people probably had thoughts similar to ours. They were, however, engaged in different life situations. My aim was to give my protagonist some contemporary qualities. I believe that one would need a broad knowledge of the epoch in order to express complex emotions in a drama. Yet, the idea was to make the intentions clear. While playing Klara's part, I kept in mind that it was a comedy. However, my approach towards the protagonist was even more serious because of it. (Kino, No 7-8/2002).
At the same time, she emphasised that it was not so much the director's choice as her own, which the director approved.
The success of Zemsta / The Revenge increased the critics' and a two-million audience's appetite for more films with Buzek. However by that time, Agata Buzek had already settled in Paris where she became…a fashion model. In an interview with Piotr Pacewicz for Gazeta Wyborcza Buzek admitted:
It was my idea to go to Paris. I was already 23. I earned my diploma. And in the fashion industry they do the make up for you, they tell you what to wear and your only task is to walk back and forth. Therefore, I used to give myself acting tasks, e.g. you are the queen and you cannot let anybody tell that you have just murdered the king. (Wysokie obcasy, No 46/2009).
And yet, the catwalk job was not enough to satisfy the young actress's ambitions. In July 2004, she established a foundation in Warsaw called Przestrzeń Wymiany Działań ARTERIA / Activity Exchange Zone ARTERIA to initiate and support young artists' projects and social activities. Agata Buzek engages herself not only in the theatrical projects of the foundation, but she also realizes her own passions in terms of social activities. She has supported the orange revolution in Ukraine (while organising a volunteers' trip to Kiev she met her husband), fought for human rights in Belarus and, as a vegetarian, for animals' rights. Buzek is an ambassador of Water Campaign organised by the Polish Humanitarian Action which sponsors a well construction in Sudan. As important as the actress’s achievements in the field of social activities are those noted by Jacek Sieradzki, a theatre critic for Polityka in Subiektywny spis aktorów teatralnych / Subjective List of Theatre Actors,
She returned to the stage after a lengthy absence with a bit part in a television production of Petr Zelenka's Tales of Ordinary Madness directed by Łukasz Kos and the part of Carol in Sallinger, Koltes's early play, so far not staged in Poland. The latter role has in particular reminded us of Buzek's acting talent, which is often lost due to miscasting. Sallinger was staged at the Nowa Praga Theatre in Fabryka Trzciny Arts Centre by an ensemble crazily called Activity Exchange Zone ARTERIA which attempts to find a way for fulfilling their high ambitions for which there is less and less space at the theatres in Warsaw. (Polityka, No 33/2005)
The question arises, however, whether the Polish stage and the Polish cinema are ready for such a talent as Agata Buzek. In an above-mentioned interview by Piotr Pacewicz, the actress admits that she likes playing in German and that what she values at the German film set is the respect for everybody’s time. On the other hand, she is aware that there are projects that could not have been completed in Germany. One of them is Borys Lankosz's Rewers / Reverse (2009).
Waldemar Pokromski, an outstanding Polish make-up artist, (Roman Polański's The Pianist; Tom Tykwer's Perfume: The Story of a Murderer; Michael Haneke's White Ribbon) contacted Buzek with a German agent. As a result, the actress played in Brigit Möller's Valerie (2006) and Stephan Wagner's Paparazzo (2007). The first film was well received by the critics. It presents a story of a top-model who realises the approaching end of her career and goes through a crisis during a lonely evening on Christmas Eve. For Buzek, it was a unique opportunity to bring her modelling career to a close as she was given the chance to play out the events which she luckily managed to avoid. The second film features the story of two reporters who investigate the disappearance of a film star. They try to find answers to the question whether she gave up her career on purpose or whether she was pushed aside in order to introduce her double, a porn star, into the spotlight. This time, the critics' reviews were less enthusiastic. Still, for Agata Buzek it was an important acting task as she played four parts – two identical actresses, each in two different stages of her life, the past and present one. If one adds to this output her role created a few years earlier in a Television Theatre performance of Tadeusz Różewicz's Moja córeczka / My Little Daughter (2000), then one reaches the same conclusion as Jacek Cieślak in an interview for "Rzeczpospolita" (dated 8 February 2008). In the interview, Cieślak claims that Buzek's roles display the contemporary phenomenon of fabricating and creating an ostentatious image.
I have not thought about it in such lofty terms – says the actress. – And yet, honestly speaking, I must agree. While working on Valerie I knew what the fashion world looks like. It enabled me to focus on the essence of this story and to immerse myself in the problems of living a double life: lies, inability to admit that we have a problem and cannot cope in life. I thought about how we live and how easy it is for us to take the others' images of ourselves for our own, to be troubled by them and yield to the commonly binding images. We fulfil the dreams of others, not our own.
The fulfilment of the actress's dreams, namely a role tailored exactly to her acting skills and original talent, came unexpectedly. Agata Buzek owns it to three acclaimed artists who are debutants in terms of feature films: Borys Lankosz - a documentary film-maker trying his hand at feature film, Andrzej Bart - a writer who created an alternative story of a protagonist of one of his novels and Jerzy Kapuściński, a new director of the Film Studio Kadr. They were the ones to offer Agata Buzek the part of Sabina, a tragic, or to be precise, a tragicomic protagonist of Reverse. Sabina is an extraordinary person. This sensitive, delicate, not to say vulnerable girl from a pre-war house of intellectuals searches for her own place in the reality based on Stalin's system of terror. She seems to be the perfect victim-type, as if taken out of a handbook on victimology. And yet, when she faces the reality, she displays strength and fortitude. Not only does she take revenge on her oppressor, but also decides for a heroic act. Pregnant as a result of rape, she decides to raise her son to be a good person in spite of physical resemblance to his father.
Meeting the expectations of the plot is only part of the acting performance. In Reverse Agata Buzek plays the role of "a spinster" in her thirties, as well as an eighty-year-old woman. An additional challenge was to play in one film side by side with such great actresses as Anna Polony, Sabina's grandmother, and Krystyna Janda, her mother. Agata Buzek accomplished all of these tasks flawlessly and superbly. She played with her entire body, with a single gesture, as well as her face which was shot in a manner conveying the style of the epoch. Such an exceptional part finally brought her vast recognition and a number of awards, including Best Actress at the 2010 Polish Film Festival in Gdynia and the title of Shooting Star awarded by the European Film Promotion at the festival in Berlin.
In a conversation with Agata Buzek published in Film (No 11/2009) Jacek Rakowiecki tried to capture the elements that make the actress so unique:
Rakowiecki: – Then, I am not surprised by the otherness of this film any more. And the word other seems important to me as this is how I also perceive Agata Buzek – the actress, when I compare her to many other Polish actresses of the young generation. A serious disease in the times of childhood which has traumatizing and changed her; unusual father: social activist and a politician – today of the highest rank [Jerzy Buzek is currently the Chairman of the European Parliament]; unusual religion in Poland [her father is a Protestant, her mother a Catholic]; consistent vegetarianism (difficult to abide in the country of fried pork cutlets); social activities beginning with charity events and finishing off with performances by non-institutional theatre ensembles which you co- produce. Moreover, the German experience, both private and professional, adds a touch of a foreign culture. A different, untypical beauty. It is a lot of otherness for a young person. It is a burden or a handicap?
– It is hard to tell… I have been with myself for over 33 years now, therefore I am no longer surprised with myself and I do not clearly see these signs of otherness any more.
Two years after Reverse she played in another promising debut: this time in Tomasz Wasilewski's In the Bedroom (2012). And in 2013 she played in, possibly, her most popular international production up to date - the first feature directed by famous Bristish screenwriter Stephen Knight, Hummingbird (2013). She played alongside action hero Jason Statham in a story of a traumatised veteran of the Afghanistan war, who returns to England to seek his vengaence, finds himself a different personality and falls in love with nun Cristina, played by Agata Buzek.
In the recent years she also played in Jerzy Skolimowski's 11 minutes (2015) and in the Polish-French co-production directed by Anne Fontaine - Les Innocentes (2016). The story of a mass-rape commited by Soviet soldiers on Polish nuns, who then start to get pregnant, was controversial but well received in Sundance and by most European critics. The role of sister Maria, played by Buzek in Polish and French, was described as 'mesmerizing' by the reviewer of The Hollywood Reporter.
Aside from acting in films, she has starred in television series, including the acclaimed Ekipa / The Crew, directed among others by Agnieszka Holland and the popular series Teraz albo nigdy / Now or Never. Moreover, she worked in television productions in Germany: Das letzte Versteck / The Last Hideout (2002), Doppelter Einsatz / Double Stake (2002), and - as mentioned before - Valerie (2007), a television drama in which she played the leading part.
In addition to acting, Agata Buzek's voice is frequently used in dubbed versions of Hollywood productions, such as Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001), Mulan II (2004), The Stepford Wives (2004), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005), Eragon (2006), and many others.
She doesn't appear in theatre too often, but she has played significant roles in famous plays. She played in Svidrigailov based on Dostoyevsky and directed by Andrzej Domalik (2000) and in Peer Gynt by Ibsen directed by Marek Pasieczny (2005). She appeared as Natasha in Chekhov's Three Sisters directed by Natasha Perry and Krystyna Janda. The play set the beginning of the Polonia Theatre, but it was received quite coldly by the critics. Ivan Vyrypaev's Dehli Dance staged in Narodowy Theatre (2010) got much better reception. Igor Gorzkowski chose her for the role of prince Myshkin in The Idiot based on the novel by Dostoyevsky. Witold Mrozek wrote about this surprising choice,
Agata Buzek as Myshkin is non-obvious. Somewhat static, somewhat credulous and and party insane. Maybe this is the simplest idea for the prince? His gender didn't matter, after all. Buzek's role is effective. ("Gazeta Wyborcza", 09.10.2014).
Lately she collaborated twice with Krzysztof Warlikowski: in Warsaw she played Maria de Guermantes in The French (2015) and in Paris - Isabelle Huppert's daughter in Phedre(s) staged in Odeon Theatre (2016).
Author: Helena Chmielewska-Szlajfer, updated by NMR, August 2016.