Hitting the small screen on the 11th of May, this time around "Rosemary’s Baby" is a mini-series by Agnieszka Holland. While waiting for one of the season’s most anticipated premieres, Culture.pl takes a look back at Holland’s outstanding repertoire of series. Any favourites?
Cold Case (2004-2009) - without limitations
Before she set foot on the set of The Wire, Agnieszka Holland had already had her share of experience with series. She directed four episodes of Cold Case, a detective story about a young policewoman named Lilly Rush who pursues the traces of unsolved murder cases. In each episode, the undaunted blonde would search through old archives and reopen old investigations. She sought to punish those who believed they had got away with their crimes. Interestingly enough, the score to each episode was made of songs that came out the same year as the murder case that Lilly Rush was currently investigating.
Cold Case wasn’t an overly-ambitious production. It was one of a number of American police procedural television series, in which each episode is devoted to a different case and the connection between the episodes is at best tenuous. But the 156 episodes of Cold Case stood out among the other series and aired for seven years thanks to its faithful CBS viewership. No wonder, since it was produced by the legendary Jerry Bruckheimer, who knows all too well how to make money by telling people stories that they want to hear.
The Wire (2004-2008) - Baltimore goes global
I had the opportunity to work on one of the most ruthless series that was ever made in the U.S. "The Wire". It dealt with American political life, about the problems of the permanent American civil war, in a way that cinema could never allow itself to do. You can of course enumerate feature films which took up similar topics like Stephen Gaghan’s Syriana or Paul Haggis’ Crash, but these films could not have been made if it weren’t for the success of series of the likes of "The Wire" - Agnieszka Holland told Tygodnik Powszechny.
HBO’s The Wire has become a TV classic, been called the Greatest Show in the History of TV, and is widely considered a masterpiece of the small screen. The stories of the war between dealers and the police department that pursues them turns into a story about omnipresent evil and a journey into the depths of a contemporary hell. The corruption in The Wire is a connection above classes and political divisions: corrupt criminals, politicians, policemen, media outlets and trade unions. David Simon’s series is more than a postcard from the grim side of Baltimore, it’s a story about the inefficiency of democracy and the aberrations of capitalism.
"For young film-makers, it’s a cult series. It impressed the students of film academies more than an Oscar nomination." – Holland added in the interview.
Holland is a three-time Oscar nominee. (1985 for Angry Harvest, 1990 for Europa, Europa and 2012 for In Darkness).
The Killing (2011-2012) - Seattle is in Denmark
"The world becomes more complicated than it seems" – or so Agnieszka Holland explained the message of The Killing in Polityka magazine. The AMC television station series was a story about a crime that corrodes social bonds and sweeps out secrets that were neatly tucked under the rug.
In the series, of which 3 episodes were directed by Holland, many saw a new version of Lynch’s Twin Peaks. That’s no coincidence – the face of Rosie Larsen, the young girl whose death sets motion to the investigation is as well remembered as Laura Palmer’s face.
But the roots of The Killing could be traced back to Europe, not Lynch. Before its U.S. re-make, the series was a Danish TV hit. The first couple of seasons of Forbrydelsen, as it was called in Denmark, had one third of the country's inhabitants glued to the screen.
The Scandinavian recipe also worked in the U.S. where the introversive, masculine, unfriendly but clever detective Sara Lund (played by Mirelle Enos) was just as idealised as her Danish counterpart. Holland directed three of the 26 American episodes.
Treme (2010-2013) - Holland's Emmy nomination
Three months after hurricane Katrina, New Orleans was in ruins - destroyed houses, missing people, lives in shatters, but a palpable will to survive remained. In Treme, a New Orleans borough, local musicians fight to spread hope. Its source is music, which can be a means of surviving the most difficult moments. In David Simon (The Wire) and Eric Overmyer’s series, music is no less of a protagonist than the inhabitants of Treme.
In laying out political, economic and social problems, the HBO creators drew an image of a world which doesn’t give up. Treme impressed millions with its realism and attention to detail, and its set hosted an array of skilled actors and directors. Among them was Agnieszka Holland, who was nominated for an Emmy award in 2010 for the pilot episode. She could relate to illustrating a post- Katrina landscape by "thinking about Poland just after World War II. There are lots of things that can be taken from there" she said.
Ekipa (2007) - no country for Obama
When the radical right took power in 2007, Agnieszka Holland took to the camera to make a political series which would restore the Poles' faith in politics as a force for common good. Ekipa (English title: Prime Minister) was to be a Polish version of The West Wing. But despite its realistic portrayal, Holland’s production didn’t get through to the viewers from the Vistula. That mostly lies with the fact that no one in Poland wanted to believe in the vision of an honest, hard-working prime minister who is ready to make sacrifices. Unlike in America, where Presidents are shown as statesmen (from 24 to The Unit), the image of such a politician was simply considered untruthful in Poland .
In Poland, politics is treated as the purview of dirty business, its vision as a public service has long been deactivated. I thought it might be good to show politics from its better side. I wanted for the world created by me to be simultaneously something parallel to our political reality - Agnieszka Holland told Tygodnik Powszechny.
Years of communism accustomed the Polish public to a vision of politicians as tyrants and negative figures. After 1989, cinema wasn’t able to and didn’t want to change this stereotype. Unfortunately, Agnieszka Holland didn’t manage to convince the public that the Polish prime minister could be a national hero. Owing to its relatively low viewership (the first episode was viewed by 2.1 million people, the last one by less than a million) after the first season, the series was not renewed.
But it found its place in history perhaps because in the last episode, Holland showed a tragedy involving the presidential helicopter. Three years later, in 2010, the President of Poland was on board a plane that tragically crashed in Smoleńsk.
Burning Bush (2013) - the Czech hero who didn't get the Oscar
In 2014, Agnieszka Holland’s film Burning Bush was supposed to be the Czech candidate for the Oscar awards. In the end, it didn’t receive the nomination because the American Film Academy regulations specify that in order for a film to be a runner up for the award, it can't have been previously aired on television. Before Burning Bush was made into a full feature film, it was screened as a mini-series.
Commissioned by HBO, the series related the true story of Jan Palach, a Czech national hero, who incinerated himself in 1969 as a protest against the army of the Warsaw Pact's invasion of Czechoslovakia. The story is particularly close to Holland who was studying at the FAMU, the Prague film school during this tumultuous. The production turned out to be a great success in the Czech Republic as well as in Poland. For the film and series, Holland garnered every possible Czech film award. Burning Bush received eleven Czech Lions (and fourteen of sixteen possible nominations), while Czech critics gave it mentions in nine categories.
Author: Bartosz Staszczyszyn, translator: Mai Jones 28/04/2014