TOMASZ THOMSON - INTERVIEW
All you need to know is that you must see this film.
If you need a little more context, though, here is the long and short of it: A hitman makes a mistake. An honest one, anyone could’ve made it. He’s shuttled to the Carpathian Mountains to a lush, snowy, remote, desolate, locale where his only job is to keep his boss’ wife in good company. As these things usually go, the good boss’ wife meets and accidental demise and wackiness ensues from there. I say wacky but this movie is four on the floor fun. It’s been the best reason to check out something described as a German black comedy. Those three words are diametric opposites and don’t belong with one another but going into a movie expecting nothing but a good time is the right way to ensure this movie hits you just the right way.
I was able to interview the movie’s director, Tomasz Thomson, about making a movie that is visually dark and cold yet is able to make this a pretty gripping tale as everything comes undone. It’s Tarantino meets IN BRUGES’ Martin McDonagh. One of a kind.
The movie is now playing…
CHRISTOPHER STIPP: Your filmography shows your last work coming in 2001. What brought you back 10 years later to do this project and how were you keeping your skills sharp in this time?
TOMAZ THOMSON: Yes, a very long time. I was surprised myself how long it took to shoot the second feature, as my first film was quite successful on film festivals and the critics liked it. But making films can take ages sometimes. It is not uncommon to write a script with all the drafts for two or three years, then you spend another one or two years talking with your producer to TV stations, funds, actors and distributors. And then, just when you think, yes, this is going to happen, the project suddenly dies. This happened twice in a row to me, what was kind of frustrating but is a part of the job. You have to accept it and go on. And yes, you are right, one has to keep the skills sharp. You have to practice. You are not a director if you‘re not directing. I was lucky to direct commercials and other small projects in the meantime what was not only good fun but paid my rent and made it possible to write the next script.
THOMSON: The main idea was to keep the mood switching. You let the viewer laugh about a joke and in the next second you surprise him or her with a serious, maybe even violent scene. This mix creates a dynamic that I love. It keeps things vivid. And you can balance it in the editing room quite well. Nevertheless the main tonality is rather melancholic.
CS: Where did the inspiration come from to write a movie that feels so original in the way it tells its story?
THOMSON: You need to have partners who back you up and give you the freedom to be creative. I was very lucky to do this film with Boris Michalski, a great producer. We had a very open and confident relationship and I always felt, that he believed in this project as much as I did and fought for it and our common vision. It wouldn‘t have be possible if he had doubts. Probably he had some, but at least he never told me. So it was easy for me to feel free and brood over absurd scenes.
CS: Were you constrained in telling the story by your budget or were you able to tell the story you wanted, the way you wanted to?
THOMSON: From the very beginning it was clear that we would have a difficult budget situation. So the question was, are we going to do it anyway? And the answer was: Yes! Sure! Working low budget means, you have to adapt your story to the circumstances much more than you expect. You can‘t postpone a shooting day just because of bad weather. You need snow but there is no? So you better change the scene so that it fits again. Or you need that car for the scene which is stuck in the snow a few miles away and won‘t be here within the next hours? You need to be very flexible and you have to have fun in improvisation. I do and honestly, some of my favorite scenes were created on location.
CS: What did you find after shooting the movie and getting into the editing room? Did the story stay consistent or did you see something fresh you had not considered before?
THOMSON: It is crucial to kind of reset yourself and your vision in the editing room. Try to edit what you initially wanted but in the end you‘ll have to forget the script and forget what you planed, to get the best out of it. Editing is a very creative process where you need to have a fresh view on the material you have shot. It is not easy, but it‘s worth it. It was especially hard for me as I edited it myself. I changed a lot in the storyline, not only due to the improvisation and adaptation we made during the shooting but also because of the overall drama. For example, the narrated illustrated scenes were added afterwards.
CS: The biggest challenge on this set feels like it was the elements. Did the snow or cold present any interesting obstacles?
THOMSON: Yes, the snow and the cold gave us a hard time. But on the other hand it had it‘s advantages. The actors for instance didn‘t have to pretend to be exhausted or to be freezing. Just because they were.
CS: After having seen the finished film, is there anything you’re most proud of in the movie that you feel you were able to capture perfectly (or near perfect)?
THOMSON: I like this movie. Added up I‘ve probably seen it for a few hundred times now and I still like it. Don‘t get me wrong, usually I‘m very strict with my own work, so there are always a lot of things I would change. But the movie is finished, that‘s the way it goes. So why do I still like to see it? I guess because of the characters. The actors did a fantastic job and really brought this weird characters to life. I have fun watching them every time.
CS: What was any big lesson you took away about filmmaking as you made this movie?
THOMSON: You never stop learning, that‘s right and during this project I had two big lessons: the first was rather a technical one. The script was actually a bit too long when we started shooting. We all knew but thought, well, that‘s good, then we have more material in the editing room. But in a low budget movie you have to concentrate on what is absolutely necessary because you don‘t have the time and money to do extra scenes as a kind of a backup. You have to be very effective. Lesson two sounds like a worn out advice: never lose your vision. Stay open to other opinions, allow others to be part of the project but in the end it‘s your film, you have to know what you‘re doing and you have to decide. My producer and I did, and it was a very long and difficult way but in the end it paid off.
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