On 25th of October in Filmhouse, Edinburgh the viewers could watch a feature debut of Bartosz Konopka, widely appraised for his documentaries and short films. The director has been acclaimed at such festivals as Hot Docs Toronto, Hamptons, Jihlava, Krakow Film Festival, Planete Doc Review and in 2010 his film was nominated for the Academy Awards. Konopka’s short film debut "Three for the Taking" (Trójka Do Wzięcia), which can be seen at the PLAY POLAND festival, has won as many as 12 awards. Among them Grand Prix at Brest Film Festival as well as best debut awards at the Message To Man IFF in St. Petersburg.
"Fear of Falling" (Lęk Wysokości) is a feature debut of Oscar nominated director of "Rabbit à la Berlin" (Królik po Berlińsku) – Bartosz Konopka. The film tells a heart-breaking story of a TV anchor, Tomek (Marcin Dorociński) who has ran away from province countryside to put his life together in a big city. When his private and professional matters get in order Tomek receives a call from a psychiatric hospital that his father (Krzysztof Stroiński), with whom Tomek had no contact for couple of years, has a severe ailment. The journalist decides to reach towards his dad despite his friends’ and his own doubts. As a result he is entwined in a relation that balances at the very edge of sanity. This relationship also forces him to re-evaluate his whole life and enable him to rediscover himself.
Dedicated to the director’s father, the film is a personal voyage of the director to his inner self as well as analysis of complex family relations. As Konopka said: ‘This film is very much one of a kind for me. I have never before tried to write something, which has come straight out of my personal life. The story it tells has haunted me for many years. The first time I tackled it was in my graduation film. I then tried to create a screenplay for a feature based on this story. However, I was not yet ready to take it on. It was only after I lost my father and became a father myself that I began to see it from a new and painful perspective.
In January 2005, my wife Bogusia and I were expecting a child. The baby was already one week due. My mother had spent a month with us; she came to Warsaw specifically for that. Finally, she could wait no longer; she had to go back to Vienna, to her work. On her way back, she was driving through Dąbrowa Górnicza – my hometown. She called about three days later – saying she had stayed longer, because she was not able to get into my father’s apartment, and she wanted to see him. She finally had to call the fire department to get in. They had to break the door, they walked in through the balcony. It turned out my dad had died.
At first, the news knocked me down. I realised I had not settled all the things with my father. I hadn’t talked with him. We didn’t tell each other all the things we should have told one another. And it will never happen.
Suddenly, you think that all these things you’ve been doing, this drive to work, to do films – all this suddenly becomes meaningless, because you didn’t have time for the people close to you and you will never catch up. And you stay with this enormous sense of guilt, which then overwhelms you.
The last sequence, when Tomek kidnaps his father from the hospital, did not happen in my life, I was never up for it. I never gave my father this few-day trip to an important place – the mountains. I thought: what would happen if I take this trip in my imagination? This film is the fulfilment of that idea, a process bringing another person back to the living. After my father’s death I thought I would write down certain things I still remember. Transferring memories into film narrative, and confabulating, helps you deal with them.
I first chose the actor – Krzysztof Stroiński – for the father’s part. I knew I have a lot to „implant” into that actor. This text was for me a search for how to reach my father. And a story about love – a male melodrama, with difficult, harsh emotions, which exist between men.
This is a story about the search for love from another person, and the need to give it – to surround with love the person who needs it, although he denies it. About a need, which the main hero has never before realised, and which suddenly explodes with great strength. This becomes the most important thing in his life to such an extent that he neglects his home, his wife – he feels so much love. This love inspires him, motivates him and stimulates him on the one hand, and on the other hand tears his whole world apart. A strange love: a son’s love towards his father, and in fact the love between two people who are close to one another, and yet cannot find a way to reach each other. This is the most important for me in this story.
How might one bring someone back to life when he simply doesn't want to be brought back? Why could the father’s madness become an attractive concept of living for his son? Can illness cure a broken family?
The fear of falling means the fear of living, fear of meeting challenges of everyday life. How can this fear be overcome?
The Fear of Falling was induced by feelings, which tormented me a lot – that I hadn’t had the time to say goodbye, to close certain things. It is a wound, which will never scar, and which is echoed in your life decisions and your peace of mind.”
The film has received multitude of awards, including Gdynia Film Festival 2011 Awards for the best directing debut or second film and Best Make up Award. Same year the film was bestowed with yet another honour – Silver Gateway Award in Mumbai. In 2012 the film was awarded at the European Festival in Lecco for best cinematography. To top it up Marcin Dorociński has received Gdynia Golden Lions for the leading role.
Tickets available online: tickets.
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