Mateusz an ex border patrol guard, revisits his old stomping ground, a remote station in the wilderness of snowbound mountains between Poland-Ukraine as a bonding experience between with his two teenage sons. When a stranger stumbles half frozen by their cabin doorstep mumbling something about a lost party of people, before collapsing, Mateusz decides to set off in the snow to find the group, leaving the boys to care for the stranger. However, after regaining consciousness this stranger does not seem to be a victim of chance he appeared to be, transforming the family holiday into a terrifying hellish experience.
It is a really good Polish thriller made in line with the best practices of this kind.
– Łukasz Adamski, wPolityce
It’s you or him, Wojciech Kasperski interviewed by Małgorzata Stasiak, Kino Magazine
Q: In your fiction debut, you tell a very dramatic story. How did you start working on this?
A: At the beginning, I made a list of what I value the most in the movies. Then, I was thinking about telling it entirely in my way. Searching for style and language was related to what I wanted to show.
Q: Have you made a list of movies where to find these guidelines?
A: Ridley Scott’s “Alien”, Hitchcock’s “Birds”, “Carol Reed’s “The third man”, Kubrick’s “Shinning”, John Boorman’s “Deliverance”. For all these movies suspense is essential. They picture a strong character that undergoes a transformation under tough external factors. In “Birds” nature is an unstoppable force that influences the main character, her relationship with a man, a community she lives in, and in consequences – a whole world presented. After many analyses and thinking I found out how I want to make my movie. I created my own mathematical equation, comprises of open space and a scene in the middle of nowhere where three characters appear. The action in the movie is based on antic tragedy rules surrounded by the wild and uncontrollable nature.
Q: At the beginning it is hard to read the stranger’s intentions who appears out of nowhere at home somewhere in the mountains, disturbing the lives of a father and two sons. He awakes both pity and fear. What’s more, Dorocinski’s makeup brings to mind Jesus Christ figure.
A: Konrad couldn’t have been clear-cut. When he said that he called the base and someone actually came – we don’t know what the truth was. Similarly, his aggression may be a result of him feeling lost. To the viewer, nothing can be fully certain. I wanted to make characters as vivid as possible, so the world in the script, even if it has a precise structure, wasn’t dead.
Q: In one interview you said that the situation on set released crew’s animal instincts. What did you mean?
A: On the set of this movie, the work never ended. We worked every day for fourteen hours, instead of making five scenes, we made ten. When we got back from the set, we were discussing what we are going to improve the following day. House located out of nowhere, almost men only – such conditions conduce to emotional conflicts. On the set, the palpable militant energy created that was transferred into our private relations during the filming and the story itself which was embedded in a tense atmosphere. I didn’t have to do anything more, I screamed “action!” and in this way created world launched on its own.
Q: Have you predicted this?
A: To be a vigilant observer – that’s a part of my job. At the beginning of filming, I noticed that everyone was nervous and I started making advantage of it. But it wasn’t premeditated. This experience made me agree with Werner Herzog, who said that creating a tense situation on the screen requires creating one in reality. In a documentary movie, I observe a real situation and the surrounding world, in a fiction movie I have to create this world. During my work, I understood that if I want to make a movie about real conflicts, I have to rouse them. They generated a strong hit on screen, the titular “on the edge” situation.
Q: You make your characters face extremely dramatic choices; you bring them to the edge of humanity. What for?
A: I’m interested in human behaviour in extreme situations. I need to cross the safe and comfort zones of what we can control. I want to see people “on the edge”. Civilizational progress transferred life from biological to intellectual zone, which is inconsistent with a nature programme. Therefore, in my story I sent “copies of human species” up the mountains to the edge of civilisation – the place where they will start existing along with the primary code. I force characters to the situations where they cannot hide – they need to act and find a way to survive.
Q: It’s a world of men, rough and ruthless. Why there’re no women in it?
A: I wanted to confront young men with a brutal world and to show them that they grow up in a hostile environment. Absent woman is in this reality a symbol of a lost world, something good that doesn’t exist anymore. This family is broken and must unite in order to keep these noble feelings that the woman symbolise. I worked with Bartek Bielenia, who played the older brother, on the character’s subtlety, tenderness so that he was like a mother to his younger brother. The transformation in this brutal world was the most difficult for him.
Well done – a thriller that hasn’t been in Poland yet.
– Łukasz Maciejewski, Dziennik
Kasperski’s success is not only a great acting. The movie has an excellent pace: slow, family drama turns into an emotional thriller.
– Andrzej Łucjan, Warszawa.pl
Written and Directed by Wojciech Kasperski Director of Photography Łukasz Żal Edited by Tymoteusz Wiskirski Music by Bartłomiej Gliniak Sound designed by Marcin Kasiński, Kacper Habisiak, Mateusz Adamczyk Casting by Marek Palka Production Manager Konrad Wróblewski, Inga Kruk First Assistant Director Anna Kowalska Associate producers Magda Wierzchosławska, Jacek Kucharski Co-producer Zbigniew Adamkiewicz, Stanisław Tyczyński, Łukasz Poniński, Zbigniew Kula, Marcin Kasiński, Kacper Habisiak Producer Marcin Wierzchosławski
Country Poland Production Year 2016 Genere feature fiction Running time 92’ Production Companies Metro Films, Telewizja Polska S.A., Alvernia Studios, Non Stop Film Service, Dreamsound Film co-financed by Polish Film Institute Film represented by One Eyed Films, UK World Sales One Eyed Films, Telewizja Polska S.A.
- International Festival of Independent Cinema OFF CAMERA, Poland, 2016 (special jury mention)
- International Festival of Independent Cinema OFF CAMERA, Poland, 2016 (special mention for Best Actor)
- Koszalin Film Festiva, Poland 2016 (Audience Award)
- Koszalin Film Festiva, Poland 2016 (Youth Jury Award)
- Koszalin Film Festiva, Poland 2016 (Rising Star Award)
- Koszalin Film Festiva, Poland 2016 (Best Music)
- Gdynia Film Festival, Poland 2016 (Best Sound Design)
- Polish Film Academy, 2016 (nomination: Best Music)
- Austin Fantastic Fest, USA 2016 (competition)
- Cairo International Film Festival, Egipt 2016 (competition)
- Newport Beach Film Festival, USA 2016 (competition)
- Oporto International Film Festival, Portugal 2017 (competition)