A full feature co-production documentary about the famous Polish director Agnieszka Holland and her relationship to Czechoslovakia.
„Czech culture was a different mirror to our world.“ Agnieszka Holland in an interview for Czech daily MF Dnes
The film has two basic storylines: It depicts the life of Agnieszka Holland during her studies at the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague towards the end of the 1960’s, her friends, her participation in a student strike and her arrest for supporting the dissident movement and anti-state tendencies. The second storyline follows her return visits from 1989 until a historical series about the death of Jan Palach called Burning Bush. It is also a story about courage, fear, honesty and friendship and all its trials.
| CREATIVE TEAM
DIRECTORS Krystyna Krauze / Jacek Petrycki
SCRIPT Krystyna Krauze
PHOTOGRAPHY Jacek Petrycki
MUSIC Maciej Kaziński / Mikołaj Trzaska
EDITING Evženie Brabcová
SOUND Daniel Němec / Martin Roškaňuk
PRODUCER Martin Vandas
CZECH REPUBLIC Czech television – Petr Kubica
POLAND Centrala Film – Jacek Naglowski / Agnieszka Janowska
| TECHNICAL DETAILS
RUNNING LENGTH 77 min
| KRYSTYNA KRAUZE
Krystyna Krauze graduated from the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (with her thesis Krzystof Kieslowski – Intricate Paths of a Documentarist). She is a translator and a popularizer of Czech dramatic art in Poland. She published three anthologies of Czech drama. She was active in the Polish opposition movement during the 1980’s. Since 1988, she has been a member of the Czechoslovak-Polish Solidarity. She participated in the important demonstration on the 17th November 1989 and two days later she was deported from Czechoslovakia as an “unwanted” citizen. From 2008 to 2011, she worked as the deputy director of the Polish Institute in Prague.
1997 Nothing is Absurd – Portrait of Rabi Karol Sidon
1998 Master Vyskočil
2012 Tatar Desires
2016 Brother Karel
| JACEK PETRYCKI
Since 1987, he has been collaborating with British TV channels Channel 4 and BBC and also with HBO. Jacek Petrycki was the director of photography of the most popular films from the Cinema of Moral Unrest, e.g. The Calm and The Amateur by Krzystof Kieslowski. During the 1970’s, when heavy and static film equipment was used as a standard, he tried to breathe life into films by means of his own technique of using a longer lens and deliberate blurriness of composition. As a cinematographer, he worked with the generation of Polish documentarists who began to film in the 1960’s and the 1970’s. He was politically active as an author of documentary films focusing on the Solidarity movement and the situation in Chechnya, Russia and Kosovo. He worked on many films by Agnieszka Holland e.g. Europa Europa, Provincial Actors, The Secret Garden, Fever and the film Interrogation (directed by Ryszard Bugajski).
| AGNIESZKA HOLLAND
Agnieszka Holland (born 28th November 1948 in Warsaw) is a film and TV director. Her father’s parents were murdered in the Warsaw ghetto. Her catholic mother worked for the resistance during the war and she participated in the Warsaw Uprising. Between 1966 and 1971, Agnieszka studied at the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. She began her career in Poland as the assistant of Krzystof Zanussi. She collaborated with Andrzej Wajda and Krzystof Kieslowsky. After martial law was declared in Poland in 1981, she stayed in the West. Her films won a number of awards – Europa Europa (1990) was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Screenplay. Her last films, In Darkness and Burning Bush were also Oscar favourites.
Agnieszka Holland recalls the events surrounding Palach’s death: “I went to Poland for Christmas holidays so I wasn’t in Prague in those days. I wanted to come straight away but they revoked my exit visa permit and did not let me go to Czechoslovakia. I got to Prague only after Palach’s burial. But my colleagues told me everything and showed me films and photographs they had made. They were all very excited but I also felt their resolve to fight for freedom was weakening with every passing day. In the course of one month, people became resigned, I saw the normalization crush everything and fear spreading. Just a few dissidents were left. And people were angry at those courageous few because their sole presence reminded them of their own cowardice and humiliation. For me, it was an enormous human and social experience.”
Few people know that Agnieszka Holland stood in front of a Czech court in December 1971, right after Christmas:
“I spent about six or seven weeks in custody at Ruzyně. And then I had to regularly go to interrogations. The trial was held in late December 1971. Laco Mravec was sentenced to a year and a half, me and Helena Stachová got away with suspended sentences.”
She used her memories of prison as an actress in the legendary film Interrogation: “The conditions were very similar, at least the screws tried their best to make us feel like in the fifties. When I was taken into custody, I was stripped naked and the screw humiliated me. They put me into the “hole” in the basement, the isolation cell. I spent a week there. There was no bed, the toilet had no curtain. Then they put me into a regular cell. My cellmate was a girl from Slovakia, sentenced for theft and what they did to her was just horrible. The screws raped her about three times and also the gynecologist raped her. He tried to rape me too, but I started screaming in Polish so he got scared. I have to say it was tough. I related some of my experiences to Bugajski (director of Interrogation) , mainly about the atmosphere in the cells.”
Director Krystyna Krauze says about her film: “Our documentary has two layers. In the first one we follow Agnieszka Holland during her work on the Burning Bush series, in the second one we return to her wild youth. We depict the atmosphere during her studies at the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague and discuss the significant moments and decisions that subsequently influenced her work and life. We met her friends and people involved in the anti-communist activities (Laco Mravec, Zuzana Buhlová, Petr Uhl and Helena Stachová).
Jacek Petrycki, the film’s co-author, is a long-time friend of the director, her peer and an excellent Polish cinematographer who was also a member of the dissident movement for many years. The documentary The Return of Agnieszka H. is a reflection on their common ideals and the need to live in freedom and truth. A reflection on an important life choice during a time of political pressure and ordinary human honesty during a time of totalitarianism.”