Interview, Andrej Wajda, Director, Katyn
After Katyn — a political film — I wanted to return to psychological cinema: Wajda
Katyn, the latest film by Polish master Andrej Wajda was premiered at Berlin. Mumbai will witness on Thursday the Asian premier of the Oscar nominated film. Katyn narrates the story of the Polish officers who were murdered near the forest of Katyn by the Soviet secret service NKWD in the spring of 1940. It is also the story of their relatives, many of whom waited for years for the return of their husbands, fathers, sons or brothers.
Katyn restores a historical truth and exposes a cruel cover-up – a lie that is still circulated – but the film is also inspired by your own family tragedy, as you waited for the return of your father who had disappeared. Was it difficult to combine these two perspectives?
Andrzej Wajda: Yes, and it’s precisely for these reasons that it took several years to complete the film. In the end, the film is made up of selected scenes and dialogues gleaned from diaries, memories and the correspondence exchanged between the murdered officers and their wives.
Who is the film’s intended audience? The families affected by the trauma of Katyn or those who are unaware of the significance of the event?
Andrzej Wajda: The families whose lives have been affected by Katyn know the truth only too well. My film is therefore intended for young Polish audiences who are not familiar with the event and for whom it remains shrouded in mystery. The film is also aimed at older viewers who, at the time of the Popular Republic of Poland were fed nothing but lies about what happened.
What is the reaction of young audiences to the film? Have they reacted in the way you expected?
Andrzej Wajda: Yes, absolutely. This is borne out by the long silence that follows the end of the film’s screening.
Are the characters in the film based on real people or are they fictive?
Andrzej Wajda: For the most part, the characters are based on real people — for instance, the wife of General Smorawinski or the Krakow University professor and his wife. The other characters are a combination of real and fictive individuals, such as the Soviet major Popov, whose name and past are authentic.
Did you have a clear idea about how the film would unfold right from the start?
Andrzej Wajda: No. The tragedy which took place in the forest of Katyn can be explored in different ways. But I constantly had to remind myself that this was the first film to focus on the subject.
What was the most difficult aspect of making the film?
Andrzej Wajda: Getting it off the ground was the most difficult part… Starting to make a film without having access to a completed screenplay.
In May or June, shooting will begin on your new film — an adaptation of Jaroslaw Iwaszkiewicz’s short story Tatarak. This isn’t the first time you’ve turned to Iwaszkiewicz’s prose for inspiration.
That’s right. After Katyn — a political film — I wanted to return to psychological cinema, centering on the woman as subject. Jaroslaw Iwaszkiewicz’s prose is a wonderful source of inspiration for this type of cinema.
(Dorota Hartwich for Cineuropa)