Tadeusz Łysiak • Director of The Dress
“Millions of hearts die every day – and people just idly walk by”
- We talked to Polish director Tadeusz Łysiak, whose short film The Dress will screen as part of this year’s EFP Future Frames
Julia is a person of restricted growth who works as a maid in a down at heel motel in the middle of the Polish countryside. Her life is filled with loneliness thanks to a world that will never let her forget her differences. But when a truck driver keeps visiting the motel, things begin to look brighter for Julia. But will this last? Polish film The Dress is a plea for understanding in an unforgiving world that is replete with an affecting naturalism and an astounding performance from Anna Dzieduszycka in the lead role.
A product of the Warsaw Film School, the film will screen as part of this year’s European Film Promotion’s Future Frames, which takes place during Karlovy Vary’s Eastern Promises. We talked to the director Tadeusz Łysiak about trying to find hope in a world that often feels hopeless.
Cineuropa: What was it about the idea of ‘otherness’ that made you want to make The Dress?
Tadeusz Łysiak: To be honest it’s not the idea of ‘otherness’ which interested me the most. It is the idea of what’s common and what is the same in every one of us: we all desire to be loved, we are all afraid of loneliness. The Dress touches on the subject of rejection, loneliness and desire for love. Our heroine is a conduit for very universal emotions anyone can identify with. Julia is physically different from the rest of the society, but she is guided by the same needs and desires we all are. The world is full of lonely people who were doomed for this loneliness, even though they do not deserve it. I hope our film will bring the audience’s attention to this issue and allow us to stop looking at ourselves only in the context of our looks, the shapes of our faces, our height, weight or other physical aspects. Millions of hearts die every day. And people just idly walk by.
Of course, a large part of the film is the casting of Anna Dzieduszycka. How difficult was it to find exactly the right person for the role?
I knew Anna from a really small video I made at the beginning of my studies, so I already knew that she is such an amazing and powerful person. But I wasn’t sure if she would like the script and want to play in the movie, so our first meeting after a couple of years was a stressful experience for me. All my fears turned out to be unnecessary. She loved the script and said to me that she really wants to do it. Of course hiring a non-professional actor is always a risk but in this case it all paid off. I was amazed by her talents and her acting skills, I think this is one of my biggest successes - finding her and helping her start a career. She is truly outstanding both as an actress and a person. I immediately knew that I have to transfer as much of her personality as I can to the movie. I wanted to tell a story about a really strong woman, who struggles to find peace and love in dark, brutal times. I think this subject is particularly important in Poland, where people are often afraid of difference.
It’s a dark film with Julia’s hopes and dreams seemingly continually dashed. But you do offer glimpses of hope. Do you think her life improves beyond the film?
I think there are two types of directors: ones that like to give hope for the future and others prefer to reflect reality. In this movie I tried to do both, but at the end I’m leaving the character in a state where she is even more lonely than she was at the beginning. This is what I wanted to tell. I know that people often feel this emptiness after the credits, and are angry at me that I didn’t deliver a happy ending. But this was meant to be a film that leaves you with certain questions about life and about people.
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