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ARRAS 2019

Monika Jordan-Mlodzianowska • Director of The Iron Bridge

"It’s a metaphor for personal relationships"

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- Polish filmmaker Monika Jordan-Mlodzianowska discusses her feature debut, The Iron Bridge, which was screened in competition at the 20th Arras Film Festival

Monika Jordan-Mlodzianowska  • Director of The Iron Bridge
(© Léa Rener/Arras Film Festival)

A graduate from Lodz Film School, Poland’s Monika Jordan-Mlodzianowska spent a decade working as a casting director before getting stuck into directing her feature debut, The Iron Bridge [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Monika Jordan-Mlodzianowska
film profile
]
. The film, which is due to be released in Polish theatres by TVP on 22 November, and which hinges on a love triangle in the chaotic wake of a mining accident, was screened in competition at the 20th Arras Film Festival, where we met up with the filmmaker.

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Cineuropa: Where did the initial idea for The Iron Bridge spring from? Infidelity or the mining sector?
Monika Jordan-Mlodzianowska: First of all, I had some extremely personal ideas of my own on the subject of infidelity. Then, as I was born in a mining town in Western Poland and I was thinking about a setting for my story, I realised that the world of mining would perhaps suit it quite well. So I visited a mine, and it turned out that my visit fell very shortly after a serious accident had occurred. Polish mines are really deep, and two miners had become stuck underground: they tried to locate them and to clear the rock slide while simultaneously also digging a new tunnel down from the surface towards the spot where they were. What I noticed above all else was to what extent people had been affected by the event, and that’s what inspired the story I tell in the film. So I carried on with my research by gathering information and visiting a great many mines, which are very dangerous places. I met a lot of miners who told me about their experiences. My two male lead actors also spent a lot of time underground and even worked as miners, with all the garb and such, until someone recognised the more famous of the two.

How did you ensure that the two topics would intertwine properly?
I knew that the whole finale of the film would be very dramatic, and I didn’t want to tell the story of my love triangle by concentrating entirely on infidelity and romance. I had to choose an angle, so I opted to explore the consequences, rather than the causes and the process involved in being unfaithful. Obviously, I had to provide a certain amount of information to the viewer so that he or she would find the characters likeable, but the whole screenplay was written bearing the finale in mind.

The fairly classical nature of the love triangle is intensified somewhat by the drama of the situation.
I don’t know if this is the case elsewhere, but in Poland, miners and mining areas are very traditionalistic, as are stories involving married people. In this film, I simultaneously break the rules governing miners and those governing your typical, traditional family.

The movie explores the subject of depth – in terms of both emotions and the mine. To what extent did you intend to play with this metaphor?
The title of the film, The Iron Bridge, refers to a long tube that brings air underground and which is also used for communication whenever there’s an accident, which we see as part of the story. It’s also a metaphor for personal relationships: the potential explosive payload of one’s emotions in stark contrast with the steel, which is highly durable and resistant, as if one were unable to express what one is feeling deep down.

It’s a film that really puts the actors centre stage.
I was lucky that the screenplay caught the attention of some excellent actors who are very well known in Poland. I also wanted the love triangle to be perfectly balanced – I didn’t want the woman to choose one man because he’s better than the other one, and I didn’t want her decision to be simplistic. The audience should be able to like all three characters; I didn’t want to look down on anyone. Humans feel a lot of emotions, and it’s quite a classic situation to find oneself torn between one’s faithfulness to one person and feeling emotions towards another person.

What were your main intentions on the visual side?
With my DoP, Piotr Kukla – who has worked a lot in the Netherlands, particularly on Twin Sisters, which was nominated for the Oscars – we decided that we didn’t want the narrative to be steeped in too much strangeness, visually speaking, besides some small dashes of mystery here and there. The audience had to be able to concentrate on the emotions, and so there had to be a very clear story and a clear image as well.

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(Translated from French)

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