has long valued Iwaszkiewicz's prose, treating its screen adaptations as a kind of counterbalance to his natural passion - political cinema. And, unexpectedly, this fascination with the great writer's output has brought Wajda substantial success: a Gold Medal at the Moscow International Film Festival for Brzezina / The Birch Wood and an Oscar nomination for Panny z Wilka / The Maids of Wilko. However, this time his return to Iwaszkiewicz and his desire to shoot Tatarak / Sweet Rush
is of personal significance.
Tatarak / Sweet Rush is a discourse between the writer and death, whose presence - as the author was 64 years old by then - he began to notice more intensely than before. The story of a meeting between a mature woman grieving after the recent - war-time - loss of her sons and a young man who could almost be the boys' peer, the unexpected surge of not necessarily maternal feelings, would be almost banal if it weren't for that mark of death in the text. And it's not just Iwaszkiewicz's typical situation of the close relation between Eros and Thanatos: the young man dies before the budding feeling gets a chance for fulfilment. Everything in Tatarak / Sweet Rush smells of death - from the reeds of the title, to the relations between the heroine and her husband, emotions that waned after the deaths of their children, and the thoughts of the writer, who places his reminiscences and reflections next to the characters' story.
Thoughts about death and wanting to share them with those around you seems natural for a creative personality who - like Wajda - is 83. The trouble is, Tatarak / Sweet Rush
is too small a work to fill a full-length feature. As the director searched for a way of filling the screen time, Krystyna Janda
, whom he had planned to play the leading role from the start, lost her husband - the great cinematographer and Wajda's collaborator, Edward Kłosiński
. The film was hanging by a thread. But
"the widowed Krystyna decided to accept the part", Andrzej Wajda recalls ("Kino", 4/2009). "Her new situation didn't mean, however, that the film was to be different than we had planned a year earlier. But once our adaptation of Iwaszkiewicz's story had come together, Krystyna brought me a few pages; I read them, feeling amazed and shaken at how poignantly she described Edward's last moments and his death on those pages. I believed she had poured out her feelings to me as a friend. But I asked her if she would agree to speak the text to the camera."
That's how the film gained an extra layer. These aren't just the reflections of an aged master of cinema on the relations between people and their inevitable fate, it is also a moving reflection on the presence of death in every person's life and - to quote a piece of the dialogue - "the ease with which life passes into death", supported by the actress playing the leading role. When you add the parts of the film when the camera turns away from the set to focus on the crew working on the film - from read-through rehearsals, arranging the set, to bad shots, what you get is a kind of rough draft of a film. Next to the actual story drawn from Iwaszkiewicz's prose and shown in a sophisticated visual form (the cinematographer is Paweł Edelman), the audience gets the opportunity to watch the director at work while witnessing how the film artists' personal experience is processed into the language of contemporary cinema. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity - few people would agree to such scrutiny by a camera, to be watched in such an intimate situation, to reveal the secret of their technique. It was this courage of Andrzej Wajda's that inspired the jury of the Berlin festival to award the maker of Tatarak / Sweet Rush the Alfred Bauer Prize for a work of particular innovation. The touched director dedicated the prize to Krystyna Janda, and the whole film to Edward Kłosiński.
- Tatarak / Sweet Rush, Poland 2008. Screenplay (based on the short story by Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz, Sandor Marai's short story A Sudden Call, and notes by Krystyna Janda) and director: Andrzej Wajda, cinematography: Paweł Edelman, music: Paweł Mykietyn, set design: Magdalena Dipont, costumes: Magdalena Biedrzycka, editing: Menia Fiedler, sound: Jacek Hamela. Cast: Krystyna Janda (Marta/Actress - two roles), Paweł Sajda (Boguś), Jan Englert (doctor, Marta's husband), Jadwiga Jankowska-Cieślak (friend), Julia Pietrucha (Halinka), Roma Gąsiorowska (housekeeper), Krzysztof Skonieczny (Stasiek). Production: Akson Studio - Telewizja Polska S.A. - Agencja Filmowa, Agencja Media Plus. Co-financed by: Polish Film Institute. Distribution: ITI Cinema. Length: 85 min. Released on 24 April 2009.
Author: Konrad J. Zarębski, April 2009
The film's official website: www.filmtatarak.pl
- 2009 - Alfred Bauer Prize for Andrzej Wajda at the Berlin International Film Festival.