Film director, the mind behind movies such as Aria Diva and The Lure.
She’d always wanted to be an actress, however blind luck pushed her towards direction instead. She attended a movie class in I LO in Wrocław and it is there that she got really into films. In an interview with Barbara Lekarczyk-Cisek, she says:
It was a huge step forward for me, I saw numerous movies by Antonini, Fellini, Visconti and many more that I’d not heard of before.
By the time she finished high school, she had already known that she wanted to be a film or theatre director. However, before she passed Film School exams, she had studied Art History and Cultural Studies, as well as assisted Mikołaj Grabowski in his play King Lear in Łódź.
She studied at Direction Department at Silesian university in Katowice. At first she aimed at documentary films, however she quickly abandoned that idea, as telling real, tragic stories was too much for her. In Pieniążki [trans. Money] she weaved a story about poor children, working to support their families. In another movie, Article 567 from 2005 she told a story of Sławomir Sikora, a man whose life became an inspiration for the movie The Debt directed by Krzysztof Krauze. In 2010 she created another documentary, this time about the life of a singer Maria Fołtyn.
After having finished studying in Katowice, Smoczńska decided to enrol to Wajda School. In another part with the aforementioned interview she said:
I was really keen on meeting my masters: Edward Żebrowski, Wojciech Marczewski, Marcel Łoziński and more...
In the school she made a 30-minute movie Aria Diva, based on a short story Ariadna na Naksos [trans. Ariadne on Naxos] by Olga Tokarczuk. There, she tells a story of Basia, a woman in her thirties who sacrifices her professional life to be full-time mother and wife. When a new neighbour, an opera diva, moves in next door, the two women develop extraordinary relationship which makes Basia revaluate her life. The movie received awards at festivals in Batumi, Ismail, Wrocław, Gdynia, Kraków and New York.
Aria Diva was the second time Smoczyńska worked with Robert Bolesto, one of the most talented screenwriters of his generation in Poland. Their first meeting was on the set of 3 love, a short feature about a girl murdered by a man with whom she’d gone on a date.
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It was again Bolest who was responsible for the screenplay of the movie that made Smoczyńska known as one of the most interesting creators of Polish cinema. The movie is, of course, The Lure, a tale of two young sirens who end up in one of Polish dance clubs and their coming-of-age story during years of Polish People’s Republic. Culture.pl’s review reads:
The Lure (Córki dancingu) is a concealed feminist fable addressed to fans of Tarantino rather than Disney. (…) Agnieszka Smoczyńska does something similar: her filmic erudition and love for cinema go hand in hand with artistic courage. Her imagination and sense of style overshadows her sporadic negligence in directorial craft.
In The Lure Smoczyńska merges musical with romantic drama, gore with romantic ballad and nostalgic tale of maturity and force of love. In the movie you can find references to Aleksandra Waliszewska’s paintings, as well as music by Ballady I Romanse band which is responsible for the score. There are also references to cult-classic videos, old TV series and distinguished directors.
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The movie was recognised at many festivals, including ones in Nashville, Chicago, Vilnius, Sofia and Porto. In 2016 the movie received Special Jury Award at Sundance Film Festival, absolutely charming American critics. Everything mentioned contributed to the movie being screened in the USA, and its grosses enabled Smoczyńska and Bolesto to get a grant from Sundance Institute for their project of post-industrial sci-fi musical Deranged based on the album 1. Outside by David Bowie.
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Smoczyńska’s next film, The Fugue, is based on a script written by Gabriela Muskała, who also played the leading role. It is the story of a woman who, having lost her memory, returns to her old life with no recollection of it – and a reluctance to conform to social norms. The Fugue premiered in the the International Critics’ Week section at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival. At the Gdynia Film Festival, Smoczyńska got awarded in the Best Directorial Debut or Second Film category.
In 2018 the international project The Field Guide to Evil premiered in Poland at the New Horizons International Film Festival. Smoczyńska directed one part of it. The short was written by Robert Bolesto and reinterpreted a 19th-century Masurian folk tale about a man who devoured human hearts.
Audiences soon had yet another chance to see the fruit of Smoczyńska and Bolesto’s co-operation. Tomasz Plata and Grzegorz Laszuk of Warsaw’s independent theatre Komuna//Warszawa invited the duo to create a theatrical piece. Holy Kluska, which is, as the artists themselves put it, a ‘holy-hop-dog musical’, premièred in October 2018. Apart from Bolesto, Smoczyńska co-operated with artists who worked on the set of The Lure, including Zuzanna Wrońska (music, songs), Marcin Macuk (music) and Kaya Kołodziejczyk (choreography). Holy Kluska is a witty, energetic performance about a Bull Terrier (Piotr Trojan) raised by a couple of white collar workers (Małgorzata Gorol, Andrzej Konopka).
The series Warrior Nun, based on a comic book by Ben Dunn, is to premiere at Netflix at the end of April 2020. Smoczyńska directed two episodes.
Sources: Dziennik.pl, Kultura Online. Edited by BS, Translated by AS. Latest update: September 2019, NS