Szczesliwy czlowiek

Poland

Synopsis

Mother and son live in one of the ruined, pre-war tenement-houses. Son is thirty year old, but mother takes care of him as always before: cooking, cleaning, washing… She cannot find a work, he – does not want to. She is a quiet, calm, strong woman; he is an introverted, timid, enigmatic and neurotic man. They do not talk much; each of them lives in a world of images and interpretations. One day, he meets a woman, who attracts him. In the same time, medical test results show mother is gravely ill. Will they all ever understand each other?

Director's Statement

As your feature film debut, you make a gloomy and slow film about death - HAPPY MAN. Why this subject in particular?
I have been reared on serious literature: Mann, Hesse, Dostoevsky, Miłosz and Różewicz. I used to seek answers to the same questions they have been asking the world as well as me. And with the kind of life I lived I developed a desire to express my own artistic statement. I do not want to bother with unimportant things. What I want art to do is redeem man.

Serious things do not boil down only to death ...
The film also talks about love. And death? Today we make it seem as if there was no death. In the past, people used to prepare for it. Today, it takes us aback. I often wonder what will happen after death or when all those close to me will depart. Therefore, I live more fully and mature more quickly than I would if I thought about money and my career only. I am of the opinion that the quotidian, like shopping, friends, or quarrels are not necessarily the subjects that qualify for artistic discourse. I look for metaphors and believe, like I said. that art could redeem and pluck such strings in man's heart that would make him undergo catharsis.

Would you like your film HAPPY MAN to bring about redemption?
I just hope for my film to be able to move someone, leave something in the moviegoer to make him mull over life and its goals, and, consequently, to make him depart from the quotidian. I especially chose the difficult subject of death and love, fully aware that the young are fascinated with a fuller life than the one filled only with passing fads.

How much do you think of your experience as a director of documentaries has been brought to bear on this feature?
Quite a tot. That experience has taught me that I am not the most important. I do not happen to be interesting enough as a human to talk exclusively about myself.
Egocentrism, screening everything through one's own frame of reference, bringing out one's own ordeals and traumas into the picture is often detrimental to its artistic outcome.
Kazimierz Karabasz, who used to teach me in film school, would emphasize that it is of greatest importance to view fellow men and the world with humility and to never lose interest in the world. And it was my work on documentaries that has developed this interest in me. What Karabasz also used to teach was how not to strive to achieve shallow dazzling effects.

Your leads, the mother and her son, are in a sorry plight, seemingly helpless when faced with reality. Your own milieu, however, is in all probability quite different.
Correct. Mine is that of movie directors and cameramen. But this does not blind me to the fate of those less fortunate, who live through terrible dramas that I do not have to incur. I look with admiration at those who can live on the average national pay or those whom nobody wants to hire because they are too old. I have a lot of respect and sympathy for them. And that is why, though not one of them, I tell a story about them.
Building the relationship between the mother and her son I drew on my own experience of my love for my parents. That kind of love is often an incredibly helpless feeling that suffocates.
I felt the need to say that at times we cannot express love, but all we can come up with is a lump in the throat and to do the exact opposite of what is expected.

Director's Biography

Małgorzata Szumowska graduated from the Film Academy in Łódź. Her short documentary film SILENCE won 18 different international awards at festivals like Tampere and Tel Aviv and was broadcast internationally.

In 1999 she was invited to the Young European Cinema section of the Cannes Festival, and a year later she was invited again to the festival's "Cinefondation" section with her short film ASCENSION. She has made several documentaries for Polish public TV and also she directed SEVEN LESSONS OF LOVE for ARTE.

HAPPY MAN is her first feature film which was honored with a special award at the Thessaloniki Film Festival and invited to many international festivals such as Gothenburg, Jerusalem, Karlovy Vary, London, Rotterdam, San Francisco,Toronto and Warsaw.
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Cast & Crew

Directed by: Małgorzata Szumowska

Written by: Małgorzata Szumowska

Produced by: Wojciech J. Has

Cinematography: Marek Gajczak, Michal Englert

Editing: Jacek Drosio

Production Design: Marek Zawiechura

Original Score: Zygmunt Konieczny

Main Cast: Jadwiga Jankowska-Cieslak (mother), Malgorzata Hajewska (Marta), Piotr Jankowski (Jan), Roman Gancarczyk (Rudy), Mieczyslaw Grabka (Rajmund)

Nominations and Awards

  • European Discovery of the Year - Fassbinder Award  2001