A Żuławski lesson

Isabel Adjani and Sam Neil in "Possession",

written/directed by Andrzej Żuławski

Andrzej Żuławski recently, while praising a film by another director, has said (a loose translation): “Look how everything can be seen in this film. He doesn’t hide behind long lenses or fast cutting. Such hiding happens when a director does not know how to stage things.”

This feels very true. Could it be that showing fragments, chopping the reality is a cheap way out? If so, what could we say about poetry? Poems frequently fish out for “gold” by fragmenting a scene or an emotion or a thought.

Great screen masters indeed tend to evoke power from a strong composition, a rhythm inside a frame, proper lenses and other tools. We, the audience, sense and appreciate when a storyteller treats us seriously. When he spins his tale respecting its core and our intelligence. By showing “it all”, a good storyteller allows us to feel that this which is presented is indeed “true” and not manipulated. Of course, a dose of manipulation is unavoidable because there is no way to truthfully represent neither the world “out there” nor our perception of it. Yet the method mentioned by Żuławski seems more noble and sincere than cheaper directional gimmicks he refers to.

It is however possible I over interpret his saying since in another quote (I found it on Facebook) Żuławski says: "To please the majority is the requirement of the Planet Cinema. As far as I'm concerned, I don't make a concession to viewers, these victims of life, who think that a film is made only for their enjoyment, and who know nothing about their own existence."

“The victims of life, who know nothing about their own existence” - isn’t it chilling? Doesn’t it challenge both the craft of directing and the art of living? The potential repercussions of fully thinking through this line are immense.

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