Directing as listening

Walesa - man of hope
Screenplay by Janusz Glowacki, directed by Andrzej Wajda

Wajda is a magician when it comes to actors. Nearly everybody stands on his or her head to excel when working for him. Yet, people say he does not really tell actors what to do. Somehow he creates situations where “the talent” has to deliver.

In “Walesa - the man of hope”, while everybody raves about Wieckiewicz becoming Walesa, I was totally mesmerized by Angieszka Grochowska who plays Walensa’s wife. She just is Mrs. Danusia. Not an ounce of playing can be seen there. (Ok, some make up allowance for looking good can be detected, but let’s not be petty. Even such masterpiece (yes!) as “Gravity” has Sandra Bullock parading in a tee-shirt without a drop of sweat after hours of dodging nasty interspace debris, facing exploding space stations and the likes)

The scene with Grochowska being forced to a strip search while returning to Poland with the Nobel for Walesa is particularly moving. She just turn closes the box with the medal so that it does not see the shame. Great touch. I wonder who came up with this.

I listed to Wajda talking about making “Walesa”. Initially Oriana Falacci’s character was to appear in one or two of the scenes. After shooting them Wajda noticed a new layer in Wieckiewicz's performance (more cocky, pompous, self reflective).  And so the entire chain of scenes was born giving the film its structure.  

Wajda watches the material, be it actors or the script development, and molds that which emerges accordingly. As a true leader he follows the people, or rather as a true artist he follows the dynamics that are born out of the material.

What’s the conclusion? Listen to what the collaborators want to give you rather than telling them what to do.   

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