Bartosz Kruhlik is a film director and screenwriter. His debut film, 2019’s ‘Supernova’, was one of the most celebrated and critically acclaimed debuts in Polish cinema in recent years, and the young director has been compared to Kieślowski, among others.
Born in the small town of Lubsko, 40 kilometres from the German border, he demonstrated artistic talents as a young child. Instead of playing football with his friends, he preferred to draw. He attended art, sculpture and… chess classes. The latter became a lifelong passion of his. However, after graduating from high school in Zielona Góra, he did not apply to the Academy of Fine Arts.
Kruhlik was more interested in cinema. He caught the bug when reading comic books and watching rented VHSs, including such classics as films featuring Jean Claude Van Damme’s martial arts skills. Then, everything changed with Amadeus. At the age of thirteen, Kruhlik got a tape of Milos Forman’s film from a friend. He watched it once, and then watched it again. He did not know why. This is how his adventure in cinema started.
When he found out about the existence of Łódź Film School, he felt that it had too high an entry threshold for someone without film knowledge and experience. The names of its legendary graduates – Kieślowski and Polański – paralysed him. He went to study at the post-secondary film school in Wrocław. A year later, he tried to get into Łódź Film School and succeeded on his second attempt.
In Łódź, he did not sit around idly. During his studies, he made as many as twelve etudes, which were awarded at both Polish and international festivals. His second one, the 2008 documentary Tomorrow…, about the director’s grandmother, brought him forty awards and honourable mentions. It was only a foreshadowing of future successes. Two years later The Trip, a documentary tale about the journey of a 13-year-old heroine and her grandfather, brought him more prizes.
But Kruhlik’s most interesting student etudes came later, along with the young artist’s first feature attempts. In 2011’s Disappearance, the director told the story of a young woman confronting her son’s disappearance, which took on the tone of an expressive psychodrama. For his film, he received awards at festivals in Nairobi, Yerevan, Tallinn and Mumbai.
Two years later, in his bachelor diploma graduation work titled The Heat, he wrote a modest story for three actors, creating a film about fear and paralysing powerlessness. He travelled half the world showing this work, bringing home awards from Hannover, Athens, Venice and Rome, among others. The jury of the latter festival wrote the following about his film:
A classic psychological horror film with a small number of words and a large dose of suspense, beginning with the innocent sequence of a young boy and girl meeting by the lake. The girl goes into the forest and doesn’t return, while we participate in the hero’s experiences of fear, violence and rape committed by an inexorable stalker – whether in the real world or only in the imagination remains unknown.
But Kruhlik’s greatest short film success turned out to be his graduation work Adaptation, the story of a group of young people caught up in a tragic car accident. For Kruhlik, the 24-minute etude was an exercise in film drama and an attempt to create a film story that would transcend realism and become a metaphorical tale of the human condition.
Supernova (2019) - Zwiastun (POLSKI FILM)
Kruhlik developed the same theme in his full-length feature debut Supernova, a story of several people whose lives become intertwined during a tragic accident on a narrow country road.
The director got the idea for the film as early as in 2014. It was then that a car crash involving a young drunk driver occurred in the Pomerania region. Watching TV reports from the scene of the fatal accident, seeing the chaos, human emotions and paresis of service units on the site, Kruhlik found the starting point for his film.
At first, he wrote it as a short film, but he shelved it. Three years later, when Munk Studio announced a competition for 60-minute film scripts, Kruhlik returned to the text and deepened it psychologically while further extending the story. He was soon given the chance to make an hour-long television debut – and he did not waste the opportunity. Instead of a medium-length film, Kruhlik made a film over 70 minutes long, which could have been distributed in cinemas.
His Supernova was not an easy undertaking for a rookie – all because of the film’s formula, in which the cohesion of place, time and action is preserved. With barely 14 days of shooting on a closed section of a road near Wyszków, the director had to have complete faith in all of his ideas. In order to be as prepared as possible for filming, Kruhlik and the cinematographer made a mock-up out of cardboard boxes and, with the use of springs and toy figurines, tested camera settings and staging ideas before starting to shoot.
When Supernova was presented in Gdynia, it aroused admiration among critics. Janusz Wróblewski wrote in Polityka that it was: ‘A brilliantly directed, excellently played thriller’, and Łukasz Maciejewski noted in a review for Onet:
Someone very interesting has appeared in Polish cinema, someone who works well with actors and skilfully builds film tension. (…) Supernova exceeded my (high) expectations. It is authorial, communicative and well-told.
For his film, Kruhlik received the best debut award at the Polish Film Festival in Gdynia, as well as nominations for the Empik award and Polityka’s Passport award. However, the young director is not resting on his laurels and has already announced that his next film is to be a contemporary Greek tragedy. This time, it will take place in a tenement house instead of a country road.
Sources: Polityka, Onet.