What was your reaction for the proposal made by Borys Lankosz, who prepared the draft of the screenplay of “A Grain of Truth” by himself?
Zygmunt Miłoszewski: To tell the truth, it was quite an allergic reaction. I was just in such a moment when I wanted to concentrate on writing, and possible film adaptations of my books should be only an additional source of income. Then someone spoke to me through flickering Skype, teasing me with views of California behind him, and telling me that he wants us to work together. Then I thought about “Reverse”, and realized that this flickering guy is very cool. And that it does not have to be just a business, it can also be a fantastic adventure. So we started to work on the screenplay together, which I recall as a good experience, although it was tough for me as an author. Actually, it turned out that the scenes to which I was very attached, which seemed to me very deep and emotional, were unsuitable for a film. For example, if the main character is sitting on a bench and thinking about his unsuccessful life and this scene takes five pages, it could be heartwinning prose. However, if you translate it into a film, this guy simply is sitting on the bench. So many of the scenes had to be rewritten. We had to think about how to show them in a visually attractive way. Borys watched me very carefully, keeping me from departing into some literary mumbo? jumbo. A few things we came up with were so cool that I even wondered for a moment whether to do a new edition of the novel. I will not do it in the end, but the temptation was strong.
You went to the set during shooting, what are your impressions?
It seems to me that this film actually has a chance to be the first Polish genuine crime story, to determine the route of genre cinema in Poland. Though at the same time it was sad for me personally to start working on it. I met Robert Więckiewicz and it became clear to me that I will not play the role of Teodor Szacki, and of course, as an author, I believe that I am in the best position to do so. I'm kidding, of course. I have seen how Robert worked on the set and I told him straight out, “I feel that your photo as Szacki will one day appear in all the judicial offices in Poland, next to the white eagle, because you will give a new face to the contemporary prosecutor’s office.”
“A Grain of Truth” is a genre cinema, inspired by a crimestory book. Do you think cinema can also be an inspiration for literature?
Generally not, it is literature that is the highest form of narrative and the starting point for an adaptation, not vice versa. Compared with unlimited possibilities of literature, film and theatre are its poor relatives. But it does not change the fact that Borys probably does not even realize how much I learned from him as a writer while working on the film script. First of all, I learned to think in images, how a book scene would look like, whether it would not be visually boring. But also the fact that every scene needs to be indispensable for the storyline, in other words, how to paint the picture, not craving the baroque frame. I write my novels differently now.
You and the director are now a good duo. Have you thought about filming the third part of the trilogy about Prosecutor Szacki?
We are a good duo, we think about new challenges and we want to work together in the future, but I’m not sure it will be on Szacki. Probably not. Another thing we have in common is that we have greater ambitions than bathing all the time in the same river, playing the same songs. We would like to make a crime story which would become the reference point for the Polish cinema, a real thriller, holding the audience in suspense, and at the same time issuing a kind of a statement about Poland, not only playing “they killed him and ran”. And so we did it ? now the audience will decide if we succeeded. When we talk together, we always mention films that would say something, that would put a cat among the pigeons, and yet would be so addictive that people we'll watch it holding their breath. We can do it, without repeating what we have already done. At least I hope we can.
Can we say that Teodor Szacki is a character whom, like James Bond, a full series of films may be devoted?
I am personally finished with crime stories and Teodor Szacki. I will not write more books on him. And the movies I think at the moment, it’s quite a good idea. Why put him out to pasture, when he can move onto the screen?
Screenings of 'A Grain of Truth' at the Play Poland Film Festival:
Edinburgh – 15.10; 5:45pm; Filmhouse; £9full / £7,20conc. - followed by a Q&A with the director – Borys Lankosz
Glasgow – 12.11; 6:30pm; Grosvenor Cinema; £9,70full / £7conc.
Aberdeen – 25.11; 8:40pm; Belmont Filmhouse; £9,50full/ £7conc.
London – 28.11; 6:30pm; Clapham Picturehouse; £12,60full/ £11,60conc.