He received the Best Cinematography award for Lasting at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, and for 33 Scenes from Life at the Golden Lion Festival in Gdynia, and was cinematographer for The Congress by Ari Folman, which premieres at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. Michał Englert continues as one of the most interesting Polish cinematographers.
When I work, I am mostly guided by intuition. It gives me adrenaline and an inspiring uncertainty. We can come up with lots of ideas in the months before the shoot – knowing what we want to achieve and how to achieve it. Then comes that one day, when an actor is sick, you have a hangover, it's raining, and the sun wouldn't shine. These moments require concentration and strength. It is an important skill, to cope with difficult times.
When in high school, I realised that I will not be an athlete or a fireman, I knew that I would be a camera operator. It would be nice to say that my mentors were Vittorio Storaro [cinematographer for Bertolucci, Saura and Coppola] and Sven Nykvist [Bergman's DP], that I watched their films and decided to become a filmmaker. But this is not true. Inspiration is everywhere. I did not even realise how many things make us think. Everything is a matter of an open mind. Professor Witold Sobociński, who has quite a few grey hairs on his head, always impressed me by the fact that he still possesses the curiosity of a child. I think this is a key feature of any artist.
When you are in your early 20s, you are susceptible to various influences, forming opinions and tastes. With Małgorzata, we were fascinated about the same things, because we had such a good rapport. We still do today.
This "film about death" [...] cannot be categorised in any banal, pathetic or sentimental formula. Seemingly flat, devoid of metaphysics – which it was accused of – it has its depth. [...] We look at reality here, not directly, but through a mirror, from a distance. It is like the heroine is at the same time within and outside of the events taking place: watching herself .
In retrospect, I believe that work of Valley of Flowers was an interesting life experience. I have a few reservations about the film, but the opportunity to learn a new culture and work with an international team was an amazing experience.
We wanted a language that would combine the real and animated world. I hope that you will see that many elements of the animation were invented in real life. Our tools and staging ideas were transferred to animation.
Małgorzata said that it would be fair to show the world we are both responsible for this film. Our work is a constant replenishment and coming together of many things. I really like this kind of cooperation, because what arises is then much more personal. This translates into the cinemagraphy, because I know how emotional it each scene should be.
In the name of... tells the story of a priest of a little Parish in Mazury, who opens a refuge for young people with problems. The parson hides his past from his parishioners and is forced to cope with his unfulfillment, a secret passion and crisis of faith by himself.
It would be easy to make a strong film on the subject: to push and crush. To show a pedophile priest and shoot a journalistic film. But we were inerested in the psychological drama of a man who is trapped - said the cinematographer.
Everyone praised Englert's cinematography after the Berlin festival:
'In the name of...' is beautifully shot, through a fog of warm sunrises and a shimmering light, it recalls the majesty of creation, which - in a way - perfectly reflects the film's spiritual background - wrote Patrick Gamble in his review for Cine Vue.
Deborah Young of 'The Hollywood Reporter' noticed that: 'The lighting in scenes shot outside (...) attracts attention especially in showing a forest of trees higher than any cathedral' and Jonathan Romney of Screen Daily wrote that 'Clearly improvised and energetic scenes with teenagers and Englert's camera, as well as clear, naturalistic cinematography give the film a certain something that distinguishes it from others'.
He's made films about football fans and about students-prostitutes in Paris. He's worked on psychological dramas, science-fiction films and romantic comedies. In 2013 such diverse films as The Congress, In the name of... and Jacek Bromski's Ticket to the Moon hit the screens. His next collaboration with Szumowska, Body (2015), awarded for Best Director in Berlin, was a great success. Englert was both the cinematographer and the co-writer of the film.
He travels from one movie set to the next. He keeps on searching and growing. Lately he's been working more and more on international productions. In 2016 Alexandros Avranas's True Crimes with Jim Carrey, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Agata Kulesza premiered at the Warsaw Film Festival. Englert is also responsible for cinematography in Marie Noëlle's Marie Curie, a biography of the Polish Nobel Prize winner played by Karolina Gruszka, which will premiere in February 2017. Today Michał Englert is already a brand and one of the most important artists of new Polish cinema.
Bartosz Staszczyszyn, translated by RG, updated by NMR, October 2016.
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