I LET HIM LEAD ME
An interview of Agnieszka Porzezińska with Marcin Kwaśny – an actor and a producer of the film ‘The expelled’ about praying for good weather, military preparation and gaining the best fuel for action
AGNIESZKA PORZEZIŃSKA: – You founded the Fund ‘Between Words’, in order to produce theatrical performances. So, why did you decide to get engaged in the film production?
MARICN KWAŚNY: – The production of the film ‘The expelled’ was undertaken by us as a thing necessity. We could not gain funds for the project from the Polish Institute of Film Art because of the double premiere – the director’s and the producer’s ones. That is too many by one premiere. All potential co-producers refused us. Some of them wanted to intervene in the scenario, but we did not want to agree to it. In other words – life made us decide about the film production.
– How much money was there on the foundation account when you decided to produce the film ‘The expelled’?
– Exactly 13 thousand zlotys.
– You decided to take a lot of risk…
– I was accompanied by deep faith that we would succeed. I had a lot of good will. At the level of the scenario the film seemed to be extremely valuable. I was convinced also by determination of the film director Konrad Łęcki, who organized a fantastic team, ready for a lot of sacrifice.
– In 2014, when you were beginning to make the film, there had not been prosperity yet on historical issues, not to say about the Expelled Soldiers….
– Yes, that is true. We sent a lot of offers to companies of the State Treasury, but none of them raised interest. So, I thought about an action of raising money which was based on sending CDs with the content concerning the Expelled Soldiers to people who decided to support us financially. The film director made advertising spots encouraging people to donate some money. I must say that people’s reaction went beyond our expectations. We quickly raised over half a million zlotys, which allowed us to begin photo shooting. When the authority of the company of the State Treasury changed, Polish Petroleum and Gas Mining, Polish Energy Group, the Polish Production of Securities and Foundation of General Insurance Company decided to get engaged in the production. And, finally, after three years of perturbations it was possible to end the film production.
– It took quite a long time….
– Yes. Today films are made in 20-30 days of photo shooting. Throughout three years we had 67 of them. We were simply making them when we had funds for them.
– The time of photo shooting was very long, and at that time film troupe were taking part in other productions. They were growing their beards, having their hair cut…
– We were very terrified whether we would manage to reassemble the film well but God’s Providence was taking care of us. I cannot name it in any other way. Well, and the film director is, luckily, a very precise man.
– You say that God’s Providence was taking care of you. Have you got proof for it?
– Yes, I have. For example, the situation like that: we were filming a scene of a rage against the Expelled Soldiers in the palace in Śladków. When I was running down the stairs, I did not notice a panel sticking out of the floor. I slipped and fell over and hit at a window leaned against the wall. A lot of pieces of glass fell onto me, but nothing bad happened to me. I did not have any little scratch. We could continue filming. I had evident signs of God’s cooperation.
– You know, I will ask you for something.
– For some examples.
– That is right.
– Two of them come to my mind. The film director phones me: - Marcin, reconstructive groups from all over Poland have arrived. We are to do filming. It is raining and snowing – which was unwanted – and I need the sun for the scenes. What shall I do? Cancel filming? I asked whether they had already prayed for good weather. The film director told me that they hadn’t. I said that they should pray for good weather and wait. In half an hour it was sunny and snow melted.
– So, you can produce other films fearlessly…
– Certainly. If I trust God completely. Only if I let Him lead me.
– And another situation?
– The film director phones me again and says: - Marcin, listen, the building where we were filming the prison of the Security Office is going to be pulled down. We must shoot photos before it is pulled down. I ask: - How much will it cost? – Well, I do not know – the film director answers – 50 thousand from 50 thousand zlotys which we did not have. I thought for a while and said: ‘Let’s do the filming. They did, the amount was right, 49 thousand zlotys and pennies. On the following day people ask to be paid. They are afraid not being paid because the production is poor, independent. I pray: - God, I heard that we are to film the scenes. Please, let us have this money. I did not have to wait long. Three days later we answered the phone from New York from people who manage the Polish Theatre: - We would like to support you with the amount of 50 thousand zlotys.
– That is incredible….
– A story came to my mind about Fr. Maksymilian Kolbe, who prayed in the intention of purchasing printing machines of 500 makes when there was shortage of money and soon after that he found an envelope at the statue of Our Lady with the exactly prepared amount of money.
– So, the question if it is easy to be a producer can be crossed out from my list of questions as I already know the answer…
– Oh, no, no. We had clear signs but it does not mean that the film production is not a road through pain. It is.
– Aren’t you afraid that this film will be used politically?
– I do not support the fact that anybody can take possession of the Polish history, but if a political party ignores the history of Expelled Soldiers, no matter if we want it or not, anybody else can deal with it. It usually happens that those who are protesting against taking possession of our history the loudest, are usually to be blamed for a sin of negligence in this matter. I think that history defends itself and it does not have to be politicized.
– Why, do you think, are Expelled Soldiers still attacked, sometimes very brutally, although we already know more and we know only little truth about them?
– I think that it results from lack of historical knowledge or from nonsense analyzing our marginal fragments of two or three histories of black sheep which happen in every environment.
– Do you believe that cinema can unite?
– I do. The film ‘The Expelled’ is a movie extremely emotional, not leaving a viewer indifferent, regardless of his worldview.
– Is the film also addressed to people who believe that Expelled Soldiers are righteously called so?
– Certainly, it is. We do not show people from bronze but from blood and bones. We show heroes who were left behind in a helpless situation. Under amnesty they could reveal themselves but did not regain their desired freedom, despite assurances. They were sentenced to inhuman tortures, beating and death. Steadfast Soldiers did not want to agree to communist dictate. Staying in a forest gave them a feeling that even if they died, they would die in dignity, like soldiers with a weapon in their hands.
– How did Steadfast Soldiers help you, Marcin Kwaśny, change?
– What was helpful to me was the role of the captain Pilecki. He was an extremely religious man. He served to the country, was not chasing after medals or splendor. He usually remained in the shadow. It is proved by the fact that he took part in the Warsaw Uprising as a secret army soldier. Later, when his skills were noticed, he revealed himself. I also changed as a result of getting to know secret messages of Łukasz Ciepliński which he had written to his wife and son from prison. They make people of even the hardest character feel emotions. The stories of Łukasz Cieplinski, Witold Pilecki, Antoni Żubryd, Hieronim Dekutowski show that those were people of extremely strong moral backbones, which let them live in the spirit of clear rules. They were fighting not only for independence of Poland, but also for Polish Christianity.
– Their motto is: God – Honour – Homeland and it was not a meaningless motto, but the leading motto of their life…
– Exactly. Today there is no reference to it. In the recent years, there has been a belief in Poland that Polishness is abnormality, patriotism is embarrassing, modernity is important, not martyrdom. Whereas after the ceremonies of the National Remembrance Day of Expelled Soldiers one can see that there is a return to conservatism. The youth who are not burdened with the communist times, are returning to the roots themselves, are returning to ideals which were accompanying Expelled Soldiers.
– Are you sure how you would behave if there was an uprising today?
– Surely, I would not run away from the country. I would fight like Baczyński.
– Can you shoot?
– I learnt it a bit during film shooting. I can also throw bullets and ride a horse. I regret not having time to join the Armies of Territorial Defence, but I had, I would be the first in a queue.
– In one of interviews you defined yourself as a religious fighter. Why?
– I am sure that if it was not for my faith in God, I would not have finished the film production. This faith gave me fuel to do this job. It defines me. I cannot avoid speaking about it, otherwise if I do not speak about it, ‘stones will be shouting about it’.
– Don’t you feel sorry that you are considered as somebody insane because of a lot of people from your environment?
– I do not care. Indeed. I want to look good in God’s not people’s eyes. For the last several years I lost a lot of my acquaintances but I think it had to become so. I am not a man who would complain. I do what I am supposed to and I know that God will not disappoint me.
– Do you think that only a religious actor can act a believer in such a good way?
– Yes, I do. Faith is grace and grace cannot be acted.
– What was the nicest compliment you heard after the official premiere of the film?
– Son of Mr. Józef Franczak ‘Lalka’ – Marek thanked me for this film with his breaking voice and tears in his eyes. It makes up for all compliments.
– And what about you – were you emotionally moved?
– I thought that I had already got used to it. After all I have seen this film several times at various stages of the production. But I didn’t. I did not got used to it. When I was watching it for the first time after assembling it, still without music, without good sound, it gripped my heart so much that I will never forget it.