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SUNDANCE 2019 World Cinema Dramatic Competition

Jacek Borcuch • Director of Dolce Fine Giornata

“I wanted Maria to be a metaphor for a Europe that is slowly cracking and falling apart”


- We caught up with Polish director Jacek Borcuch to talk about his new film, Dolce Fine Giornata, after its premiere at Sundance

Jacek Borcuch  • Director of Dolce Fine Giornata
(© Mila Borcuch)

We chatted to Polish director Jacek Borcuch to talk about his new movie, Dolce Fine Giornata [+see also:
film review
interview: Jacek Borcuch
film profile
, after its premiere in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at the Sundance Film Festival (24 January-3 February).

Cineuropa: Dolce Fine Giornata explores many different topics, including how the refugee crisis influences everyday life in Europe, the limits of freedom, and a few personal themes. How did the film originate?
Jacek Borcuch:
 I feel like I am a part of an “Old Continent” that is trying to figure out what to do next. I get the impression that Europe has no clear idea of how to evolve and develop. The only voices that are loud and clear belong to extremists with distinct nationalistic inclinations, who are trying to take advantage of the crisis in a populist way. I wanted to deal with all of that in my own way – not in order to find any answers or solutions, but rather to get close to the issues that are shaping our everyday life. For the most part, Dolce Fine Giornata is a story about the fear that is enveloping Europeans. I wanted to analyse that fear – to understand the nature of it. And since I’ve been travelling a lot through Italy in recent years, I thought I should anchor the story there. Italy is the heart of European culture, and the country is facing a difficult situation, just like Poland. Then I started to wonder: who should the main character be in this story? And the figure of a poet seemed much more attractive than a regular person. In the early stages of development, I travelled with my co-writer, Szczepan Twardoch, to Tuscany, and it felt like we would be able to put much more into a protagonist that stands out from the crowd.

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Maria also lives far away from the “crowd”, in a small town called Volterra. Everything about the film seems quiet, a far cry from the more mainstream narrative style. It is also subtle in its structure and approach to the characters.
The film owes a lot to Paweł Pawlikowski, who read the first version of the script. The plot was a little different back then – for example, Maria was accepting her prize in the European Parliament in Brussels, rather than in her hometown. Paweł said that he didn’t believe that the words of a poet could really touch anybody there, and that this story would work better if we moved it to the countryside. After we did that, I realised that small towns play by their own rules – there is a lot of superstition there, and the influence of that on other people’s behaviour is more direct and immediate. From that point on, my main objective was to make the story as intimate as possible. I wanted Maria’s family to be the brightest part of the story and her to be a metaphor for a Europe that is slowly cracking and falling apart. To sum it up, Dolce Fine Giornata is a film about a family that includes references to certain aspects of life in today’s Europe. It’s not only or primarily a political film.

Maria is a “larger than life” character, as you say, but she is also unique in other ways – she is conflicted and complicated.
I don’t believe in perfection, although I do dream of it. I think that flaws, sins and difficulties are just part and parcel of human beings. What interests me the most in the character of Maria is what lurks beneath the surface. She has a lot of incertitude inside her, which is not visible to the onlookers, who perceive her as someone with a strong personality and powerful convictions. They think she knows how to respond adequately to every situation, which I think is not true. No one has a universal, infallible knowledge of what to do. Also, sometimes, the initial reaction is an emotional and rebellious one, and reason kicks in later. I think characters that are complicated and have a lot of inner contradictions are the most interesting ones, at least in cinema or literature; in real life, they are very difficult because they often befuddle us. Also, I think that characters that are simple and consistent are just unrealistic. I gave Maria the right to speak her mind freely; I didn’t have any particular agenda for her, nor for the film. I know that some people had hoped they would learn something new about the current situation in Europe from our film, but I guess it’s impossible to say anything fresh. What we can do, instead, is to shape reality in a positive and just way. Inevitably, Europe is changing, and it’s impossible to go back to the way we were.

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