Interview with

Krzystof Zanussi


Igor Pop Trajkov

november 2004


I Believe Anybody’s Aesthetics Reflects His Life


Krzystof Zanussi is one of the rare European film- directors that were very successful both in art productions and professional realizations; and historically - before and after the fall of the iron curtain. He never changed his aesthetical approach. It is very interesting to speak with him about this, as I discovered many questions are without answers. Or that they have many possible answers. I managed to catch some time with him on e-mail, as his schedule is very tight.


This interview is done within my PhD research that I do at the history department at the European University Institute in Florence.


1. I see that you are traveling a lot across Europe. Is that a part of your new research for your new film?

I travel for all reasons, production, lectures and other commitments. I've always enjoyed traveling and meeting people.


2. What is the influence of director’s life in forming his personal aesthetics?

I believe that anybody's aesthetics reflects his or her life. It applies to the director as well.


3. What were the directors that influenced you the most to choose this profession; that you were watching them while you were young?

I presume the biggest influence had Ingmar Bergman, Robert Bresson, Elia Kazan, Jean Renoir and may be John Cassavetes as well.


4. Your films are very metaphysical, full with signs and ideas. Is that due to your education, your destiny or something connected with the religion? Or it is an eclectic issue- it’s from all of these elements?

I spent my childhood under Nazi occupation. Death was very close. This might have influenced me.


5. It’s no secret that your family name has Jewish origin. Did that somehow influence the big aspect of humanism in your films?

In is not up to me to judge the humanism in my films. Does humanism has definite ethnic background? I doubt.


6. Please tell us something about your self. When did you decide you wanted to become a film director? Are you from an artistic family? From what I can see- you didn’t have classical film education. Why?

You have my autobiographical book "Time to die" recently published in Bulgaria (Colibri editor). All these questions are widely answered in my book.


7. How can you describe the situation of an artist- in the Europe (both East and West) during the iron curtain and now? What is the difference? Do you think now the position is better? If yes, in what way- financial or that there is more freedom of expression?

There is a huge difference but there is no comparison. We live now in normal free society but life is not easy and has never been easy in the past.


8. In my previous interview (before some 6 years), I asked you: “do you see any difference between arty and commercial movies?”. You told me: “ are promoting very dangerous legacy by separating movies on art and commercial ones. Films are very consumerist discipline; we don’t want to bore them with our movies.” How do you see the situation now? To me it seems like there are less and less directors that are artists, and that there is less and less space for creativity in general. I don’t remember when was the last time I saw something really brainstorming and interesting.

Nothing has changed. We must communicate with audience and this communication is not as easy process.


9. While you are directing a movie- what is the most important thing for you? Atmosphere on the set; relationship with the actors, DoP; is editing the most important element in your process of film making...

On every stage something else is most important. But script is always above all.


10. The crucial aesthetic element in your movies, in my opinion is the music of Voitcheck Killar. When did the co-operation with him begin?

From my first feature film "The Structure of Crystal". He has scored all my film since.


11. How did you choose the actors for you movies? Do you believe you need to have a friendly relationship with them so that you can achieve most? I think though you are a very intellectual director, you are working very well with the actors... How do you discover them?

Don't you see that many actors reappear in many of my films? Isn't it a proof of friendship?


12. Do you make any difference between stars and actors? What is the difference between Leslie Caron and Maja Komorowska?

Some great actors are stars. Almost all stars are good actors.


13. Would you describe you self as a European spirit? How do you find this terminology? To me that’s something very positive and progressive...

He didn’t answer this question.


14. Do you think artist should be opinionated? Should we see his opinion within his works? There’s a very large debate going on, on this in the academic circles...

No, they shouldn't.Opinionated is a negative expression. I think thoughtful people should have opinions but this doesn't qualify them as opinionated.


15. I know that during the iron curtain; people (usually your colleagues) were coming to your office in the Polish television to talk with you. (I know this from a documentary). Are they still so communicative?

I've never had an office in Polish Television. I was a director of the feature film production house TOR. I direct this studio now.


16. Film theoreticians are usually separating your opus on two fazes: intellectual and after 1989? Do you agree with this?

I' ve never came across such a nonsensical opinion.


17. Did you have any obstacles from your producers or distributors because of the name of one of the last movies of yours - “Life as a Sexually Transmitted disease”?

The title 'Life as a terminal (fatal) disease" was objected in France and nowhere else.


18. How is it to find a producer in EU? Where do you see the future of European movies?

I hope there is a future for Europe. If I am right there is a future for the films.


19. On your on-line biography I can see that you are a professor of European film. What’s that?

Mistake. I am a professor in communication. And I work in Europe.


20. Do you still think that emotions always win at the end? You sad that when you received the price in Venice for your movie “The Year of the Quiet Sun” . Do you think emotions are a good thing? In my opinion they are...

It is always nice to be a winner. But what I want to win most are human hearts.


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