Rome IFF: Zanussi offers light, Warm Heart

Article published on Oct. 31, 2008
Article published on Oct. 31, 2008
Zanussi laughs! One could paraphrase the slogan launched for Garbo in Ninotchka to sum up the new film by Polish director Krzysztof Zanussi, With a Warm Heart, which screened in competition yesterday at the Rome Film Festival.
A filmmaker with a penchant for drama, an explorer of existential dilemmas and anxieties, the director of The Year of the Quiet Sun (Golden Lion winner at Venice 1984) has at the age of 70 made perhaps his “lightest” film.

Oligarch Konstanty (Ukrainian actor Bodhan Stupka), whose body is falling apart from a lifetime of intemperance, urgently needs a heart transplant. What better donor than Stefan (newcomer Marek Kudelko), a healthy young man intent on killing himself? Why not give him a hand in achieving his goal?

"After many serious films I needed to say something important in an lighter manner,” said Zanussi (who also wrote the film), "so I decided to relate contemporary nihilism with this dark comedy." The tone is often that of a fairy tale: "The moral is that a new heart can save not only a body but also a soul,” he added.

Released domestically in September, the film sparked some controversy over a cameo by pop star Dorota Rabczewska, chosen by the director as an "icon of perfect vulgarity. But in the end she sings Bellini’s 'Casta Diva' because I wanted to show how everyone can change. It’s a shame that my picking her caused many of the actors to withdraw from the film, thus revealing the hypocrisies and bigotry of my country.”

Produced by Wlodzimierz Niderhaus for WFDIF, With a Warm Heart is the first co-production between Poland (along with Studio Filmowej Tor, Monolith Films and Polski Instytut Sztuki Filmowej) and the Ukraine (Sota Cinema Group). Zanussi’s upcoming project, as producer, is Boisko bezdomnych, the debut feature by Kasia Adamik (daughter of Agnieszka Holland), an expensive project on Saint Hedwig (or Jadwiga), a 14th century Polish queen, which will soon hit screens after years in the making.

Gabriele Barcaro