The Master from the title of Piotr Trzaskalski's film is a 50-year-old Russian. When he was serving in Afghanistan, he learned to throw knives. Now he puts this skill to good use - making a living as a knife-thrower in a travelling circus.
One night he gets drunk and lets the wild animals out of their cages. The next day he is unable to explain why he did it - simply, it was delightful to see the animals wandering across the small town's main square. The Master is thrown out of the circus and starts his solitary journey. He paints the sign "Knife Circus" on the side of his van and sets off. He saves a young prostitute from rape, and she becomes his assistant. After one performance in the countryside the Master is attacked by locals. He is rescued by Młody, a 35-year-old accordionist. The Master suggests that he join their circus. On the journey, the Master tells Młody about his greatest dream - to go to Paris, a city where he has always wanted to perform. At one of the subsequent performances he meets Anna, a girl working at the post office who is prepared to give the Master her sincere and unconditional love, and travel with him into the unknown.
Formally, The Master is a road movie.
"Formally", says the director, "because our focus was not just the fact of the characters' simple transfer from place to place, but a deeper existential generality, which the fact of travelling only suggests, and metaphorizes. We wanted to show a journey through the characters' successive emotional states, a journey that no matter what emotional states it leads through - always contains the prospect of important matters, it is the ultimate journey".
The journey in Trzaskalski's film is a mental and poetic one. The characters do not move straight ahead, they lose their way and seek their place. The plot unfolds in the provinces, it is not a tale only about Poland or Europe.
"We want this to be a universal tale, a tale about an important meeting, an attempted escape and a return, a woman and a man", the filmmakers write.
The Master features an extraordinary visual setting - magnificent cinematography, consistent and well thought-out, appreciated by the jury of the Camerimage festival. The actors also deserve mentioning. This is not an easy film to watch, its mannerisms and poetics may be offensive sometimes, but as the director says,
"We tried to make a film on the borderline of what's real and unreal".
- Mistrz / The Master, Poland/Germany 2005. Directed by Piotr Trzaskalski, screenplay by Piotr Trzaskalski, Wojciech Lepianka, director of photography: Piotr Liskowski, production design by Wojciech Żogała, costume design by Monika Ugrewicz, music by Wojciech Lemański, film editor: Cezary Kowalczuk, producer: Piotr Dzięcioł, Łukasz Dzięcioł. Featuring: Konstantin Lawronenko (Master Aleksander Sapałow), Jacek Braciak (Młody), Monika Buchowiec (Anna), Teresa Branna (Andżela), Aurelia Georges (Elodie). Produced by Opus Film Telewizja Polska, Grupa Atlas, Peter Rommel Productions, ZDF, distribution: Studio Interfilm. Duration: 115 min. Cinema premiere: September 23, 2005.
- 2005 - Award for set design for Wojciech Żogała at the Polish Film Festival in Gdynia; special mention for Piotr Śliskowski in the Polish Films Competition at the Camerimage International Film Festival of the Art of Cinematography;
- 2006 - Audience award for Piotr Trzaskalski at the Festival of Central and Eastern European Cinema in Trieste; best cinematographer award for Piotr Śliskowski at the Prowincjonalia Polish National Festival of Film Art in Września; award for Monika Buchowiec at the Prowincjonalia Polish National Festival of Film Art in Września; FIPRESCI Award for Piotr Trzaskalski at the Miami International Film Festival.
Author: Joanna Pawluśkiewicz, December 2006