Interview: Malgorzata Szumowska, director of Body2016/11/24
In Body, to be released on VoD from 28 November as part of the Award Winning Dramas collection of Walk this Way, Polish director Malgorzata Szumowska explores how people can use their bodies to escape from reality.
Janusz (Janusz Gajos) is worried that Olga (Justyna Suwala), his daughter, might try to harm herself due to her anorexia. Both of them are still grieving over the death of Olga’s mother. Janusz finds Anna (Maja Ostaszewska), a psychiatrist, who claims she can communicate with dead loved ones, and Olga begins a treatment with her. But Anna is at the same time dealing with her own loss in an unusual way.
The film is considered a dark comedy – a feel-good movie that deals with very tough topics such as physical hang-ups and obsessions, and which saw the Polish director win the Silver Berlin Bear at the 2015 Berlinale for Best Direction. And she had huge success on her home turf too, taking four prizes at The Polish Film Awards.
Cineuropa sat down with Malgorzata Szumowska to talk about the main aspects of the film.
“We started to think about making a movie only about anorexia, but it was very hermetic. That kind of movie might be violent and not easily understandable. What was left was a great interest in the human body, and the human relationship with dead bodies. Anna is searching for something further than the physical body – the spiritual body. Actually, the title was supposed to be "Soul", but it ended up being "Body". Which is way less pretentious.”
“Anna respects her body because she has been kind of educated. But at the same time she doesn’t care about it in a sexual way. She isn’t open to her body sexually, she puts her work into her body. That’s her only passion. Also, all the characters live in a world of illusions and obsessions. For example, Janusz can only be at work because he doesn’t know how to face his daughter’s education, while the daughter can only concentrate on eating or not eating. They all create their own disorder for escaping reality, and finally have to face each other, realizing something that they had been missing the whole time.”
“At the beginning we wanted to make it funny, not totally funny, but a mixture between dark comedy and drama. But in the first Polish interior screenings the audience didn’t like it. We were disappointed. But European audiences did like it and found it a comedy. We believed that we were in the middle then.”
“I wanted to portray part of Polish society. That’s essential for cinema. Warsaw is not a city that has a hipster quarter, a posh quarter and a poor quarter. It’s a post-communist city, both ugly and beautiful, where everything is mixed. I needed to show that in Body. Showing only the posh side of Poland wouldn’t be honest.”
“Polish people do really believe in ghosts. I don’t, but many people do. Even many of my friends do. I really respect that, though. It’s an ancient tradition. Even in the cities people believe in ghosts. I’m not making fun of it. It can protect you, and help you to face reality and to deal with your spirituality.”