Polish film director and scriptwriter Agnieszka Holland was an honorary guest at the Golden Apricot Yerevan International Film Festival this year, where she screened her new film "In Darkness". The film tells the true story of the incredible salvation of several Jewish families in Nazi-occupied Lvov, Poland.
Salvation, the price of which was terror, fetidness, and darkness for more than a year. The least safe areas in occupied Poland were the sewers, which became Holland's main film sets. The dark and at the same time full of hope underground life is recreated with surprising mastery.
"I didn't choose the material; the material chose me. It seems I always tried to protect my interior and no longer turn my attention to the topic of the Holocaust, but it didn't turn out that way. I thought, I'm the right person and more equipped to address WWII and Jewish issues," she said in Yerevan.
Holland is sure that she shot not a historical, but a current, high-calibre film, noting that till today it's difficult to understand the sources of aggression and discern the limit that divides the human from the unnatural.
We haven't been able to make a credible and good quality film about the Armenian Genocide — it seems we're unable to overcome the pain of the genocide. Is distance between the material and the creator a necessary factor?
I think, distance isn't needed as much. For example, the best films about WWII were created immediately after the war. Of course, it's difficult to subject some material to commentary (say, Stalin's Terror) and many film directors are unable to find an adequate reflection of the subject. In general, it's hard to translate cruel, horrible human experience into a film — just as with politics, the murky and uncertain aspect of which is difficult to turn into film. I can only say that the time has come to shoot a complete film about the Armenian Calamity.
During the press conference, you said that if the film is not an event it simply does not exist and isn't recognized.
Yes, this is so. And I'm very happy that "In Darkness" drew a large audience in Poland — youth were most interested. We have to fight for audiences, since there's nothing more depressing than shooting a film that no one will see. In the last 20 years, we lived in a world where people avoided real conflict and problems; they didn't want to ask themselves difficult, painful questions; they loathed pain and were afraid of all that which isn't fast, dynamic or entertaining. I'm referring to not only ordinary people and politicians, but also the media.
I think people are now beginning to wake up, understanding that they can no longer run away from difficult, social and ontological issues. There's the impression that a new audience is forming. And this is happening due to the crisis. The rich in Europe are no longer deified with consumption-based economic growth. And it's understandable that Europe (and soon, also Asia) will no longer be the same.
And how is the media industry today?
I think that the media today is in a very stupid situation. We all need to go back and do everything all over again.
All over the world, media is in decline, seemingly approaching the ending of its present form. If we ignore the fairly dangerous aspects of the Internet, then it seems that the Internet is also salvation. I believe that the Internet is the renaissance of the media, since people online are not simply passive consumers searching for entertainment and information, but people who take action. And if they are acting then they must be creating something, and they have to do something with their accumulated experience — especially the new generation.
I think that information revolution will lead to industrial revolution and will allow people to change the structure and instruments of work. Of course, new mechanisms of control will also be developed.
Media also has to fight to survive in these conditions in a different way — just as film producers are fighting for audiences. Now media is fighting to become as populist and stupid as possible. But at some point media organizations will lose (they're already losing) their viewers and readers because people will become more intelligent about the media.
And wherein do you see the danger of the Internet?
There's too much information, and it's becoming more and more small and fragmented — put another way, it's becoming atomized. In this divided, fragmented information arena it's impossible to create common values — it requires great effort and tension. I think the Internet's greatest danger for people is that everything has become so easy. It's like someone chewing his food and putting it in someone else's mouth. A person is deprived of the opportunity of "chewing" information by his own efforts.
"Now media is fighting to become as populist and stupid as possible. But at some point media organizations will lose (they're already losing) their viewers and readers because people will become more intelligent about the media."
In some sense, yes. I think the world is moving in two directions simultaneously: on one hand, all values and qualities are inevitably decaying; on the other hand, new values and qualities are being created.
What will be your next film?
Czech producers are suggesting filming a TV mini-series about Prague in 1968–69, which I will do with great interest since I lived there during those years, and I witnessed the Prague Spring, participated in the demonstrations, and was even arrested.
Interview by Nune Hakhverdyan.