Pora umierać / Time to Die is a monodrama inspired by the extraordinary person of Danuta Szaflarska, written specially for her - this is how Dorota Kędzierzawska and Artur Reinhart present their film (in the distributor's material).
Danuta Szaflarska is not only a brilliant actress but a fascinating personality, too. I'd been thinking of writing a screenplay 'dedicated' to Danusia for a long time, almost 15 years, since we first met on the set of 'Diabły...' / 'Devils...'. There was an equally beautiful and just as neglected old wooden house in Radość. I heard the story of the house and its owner a good few years ago. Everything only came together and snapped into place - the character and the actress, the story and the time - after I heard an amusing but sad story of an incident involving an elderly lady. That 'story' now opens the film. The house plays an important role in the picture. The third focal figure of the story is the dog. It had to appear in the screenplay because I really hate interior monologues, but this time the heroine really wanted to talk a lot. Thus, Aniela 'talks' with the dog, her only household member, friend, and defender. These conversations build a picture of how this elderly lady perceives and experiences reality, how she looks at reality with an ironic smile and uses that smile to overcome her loneliness.
We knew from the start that the film had to be black-and-white. It also had to be very sparing in how it told the story so that nothing disturbed the simplicity of our heroine's 'everyday rituals'. Looking at old family pictures, old black-and-white photos - we automatically stop, slow down, examine faces, figures, scenes a little more carefully than usually. Something special always emanates from these pictures - a kind of power, nostalgia, an unspecified magic. It's this kind of 'pause' that we wanted to bring closer to our audience, and the black and white colour was designed to help achieve that.
What else is there to add? First of all, there's the fact that Danuta Szaflarska is the greatest star of post-war Polish cinema, featured in the first two films made after 1945, Zakazane piosenki / Forbidden Songs and Skarb / The Treasure, and enjoying extraordinary popularity among audiences ever since. Despite her age (she was born in 1915), she is still bursting with energy and takes on tough challenges, in cinema and theatre alike. Her appearance in this film is almost like an ennoblement: Dorota Kędzierzawska can be proud that she managed to invite the actress on set for the third time.
Kędzierzawska represents niche cinema, working on stories about people unable to keep up with the present pace of life, weak and helpless, mostly children but also the elderly. Each of her films, subtle and sophisticated, is noteworthy not only for its theme but also its visual side - the work of the director's regular collaborator, Artur Reinhart, a prize-winner at the Polish Film Festival in Gdynia and Camerimage, whose talent has already been noticed by Hollywood (he was the cinematographer for Tristan and Isolde, 2005).
The story of Aniela, a woman living in an old wooden house, pushed to the margins of life, dignifiedly fighting with both strangers and her own son for the respect she deserves, who has long conversations with her dog and is determined to do good until the very end, is a kind of benefit performance in honour of and by Danuta Szaflarska. The picture shows not only the excellence of the actress's technique but - first and foremost - the distance separating us, contemporary audiences, from the world that the heroine misses so much, a better world, and one that certainly was more friendly to people than the world we live in today.
The jury of the Polish Film Festival gave Pora umierać / Time to Die the best actress award for Danuta Szaflarska and the award for best sound; the film also won the journalists' and audience awards. The picture has won prizes at many Polish and international festivals, and Jerzy Płażewski, film critic for "Kino" monthly (issue 10/2007) wrote:
"It's been a long time since I was so moved by a Polish film as when I recently watched 'Pora umierać' / 'Time to Die'. Thank you, Danuta, for the sum of touching moments which - like the travelling towards heaven in the finale boldly devised by cinematographer Artur Reinhart - lead us, the audience, far beyond mundane horizons. Domestic cinema has been so generous with offering us the mundane recently. Meanwhile, it's worth asking oneself, at least once, about the past. As Jan Rostworowski once wrote, 'A bird sang beautifully a few times, A woman smiled at me beautifully a few times, And life had passed'."
- Pora umierać / Time to Die, Poland 2007. Screenwriter and director: Dorota Kędzierzawska, cinematography: Artur Reinhart, music: Włodzimierz Pawlik, set design: Albina Barańska, Artur Reinhart, costumes: Katarzyna Morawska, editing: Dorota Kędzierzawska, Artur Reinhart, sound: Reinhard Stergar, Marcin Kasiński, Kacper Habisiak, Michal Pajdak. Cast: Danuta Szaflarska (Aniela), Krzysztof Globisz (Witek, her son), Patrycja Szewczyk (granddaughter), Kamil Bitau ("Dostoyevsky"), Robert Tomaszewski (intrusive man), Małgorzata Rożniatowska (doctor). Production: Tandem Taren-To, Kid Film, TVP S.A. - Agencja Filmowa, co-financed by: Polish Film Institute, distribution: Best Film. Length 104 min. Released on 19 October 2007.
Author: Konrad J. Zarębski, November 2008
- 2007 - Best actress award for Danuta Szaflarska, journalists' award for Dorota Kędzierzawska, best sound award for Marcin Kasiński, Kacper Habisiak and Michał Pajdiak, Golden Claqueur - Radio Gdańsk's award for the director of the film which was applauded the longest for Dorota Kędzierzawska, at the Polish Film Festival in Gdynia; Main Prize - Golden Fish for Dorota Kędzierzawska at the "Happy End" Festival of Optimistic Films in Rzeszów;
- 2008 - Jury Special Mention and Audience Award for Dorota Kędzierzawska at the Trieste International Film Festival; Eagle Polish Film Award for best actress in a leading role for Danuta Szaflarska, acting award for Danuta Szaflarska at the "Prowincjonalia" Polish National Festival of Film Art in Września; Chris Holter Prize for Humour in Film for Dorota Kędzierzawska at the San Francisco International Film Festival; Special Prize for "exceptionally sensitive treatment of a difficult, deeply humane topic" for Dorota Kędzierzawska at the New York Polish Film Festival; Wojciech Jerzy Has Prize for "extraordinary consistency in building the film's mood and creative collaboration with the cinematographer" for Dorota Kędzierzawska at the Film Directing Festival in Świdnica; Leliwita Bronze Statuette - Main Prize of the Tarnów Film Awards for Dorota Kędzierzawska; Golden Duck, a prize granted by "Film" magazine, for "Best Female Role in the 2007/2008 Season" for Danuta Szaflarska; Audience Award for Dorota Kędzierzawska at the Leeds International Film Festival.