Aleksandra Konieczna played another very important role in her career – in the film Like a dog with a cat. In our conversation, the actress touches on the subject of playing the role of Iga Cembrzyńska and working with Janusz Kondratiuk.
During the 43rd Polish Feature Film Festival in Gdynia, I had the opportunity to talk to Aleksandra Konieczna and discuss the difficulties of biographical roles and how to steal a film without playing a major role. All this while producing Janusz Kondratiuk, Like a dog with a cat.
Michał Kujawiński: You play the biographical role again. Is it difficult to prepare for such a role? What challenges are waiting for the actor?
Aleksandra Konieczna: It’s definitely harder. In the case of the Beksiński family, it was simpler for me, because Zosia Beksińska is already dead, she has no family anymore, the Beksiński family is not continued. In addition, Zosia was not a media person and as well known as her outstanding husband and son. So I had it easier because I knew that they would not be compared with her. In this case (film – author’s note) the task was much more difficult. One of the first questions I asked Janusz Kondratiuk was: listen, there were movies about Marilyn Monroe, does anyone remember actresses playing Marilyn? No. They remained in the shadow of Marilyn Monroe. To this Janusz, wanting to embolden me and at the same time to minimize the problem, said: well, but toutes proportion gardée. Nevertheless, for a large part of society Iga Cembrzyńska is an icon of Polish cinema. That is why I asked Janusz, how should I approach this? Because when it comes to the performance of Iga Cembrzyńska in one-to-one proportions, it is better to turn to a cabaret artist. She would probably do it better than me (smile).
You had the opportunity to meet Iga Cembrzyńska before starting work on the film. Have you received any advice or tips?
I think it was a task from the strange, difficult category, where a woman and a woman met – and what is important, an actress with an actress. It looked like Mrs. Iga felt obliged to tell me something. I did not expect her to tell me something specific, just looked at her and wanted to feel what it was about and why she did not take on this role. And wouldn’t she mind me doing it. But she said: I like your hair and I like you. I can only say that you play this role beautifully. There are so many younger actresses than me who will do this job well, so why should I bother? Of course, she said it with tears in her eyes. I just felt accepted by her.
Has the time spent with this character made you think about your career, left any mark?
Will it mean anything to my career, then we’ll only find out. For the time being, it collides with the viewers’ perception and we will soon learn about the effects, and also about how the role itself will be perceived. But in human terms, I am such an actress – I will use big words – that man is very interested in. I am a humanist and I practice my profession like a humanist, I’m interested in a person, I’m interested in the woman who came to me in the script. I decompose and analyze it, I search for it within myself, but also hypothetically I am looking for the possibility of being like that.
Iga’s character introduces some vigor to this gloomy reality?
Yes, she in the script – and I think for Janusz – she did that as well. As Robert Więckiewicz said: I thought it was a film about me, and Necessary came and stole the film (laughs). Because this is the kind of person who enters and steals all the points. Others work, work, and she appears and scoops everything with something very effective. I knew well that up to a point this role in the script was supposed to work that way, but then I was very keen to explore this subject further when it disintegrated and disintegrated. There were a lot of scenes, which unfortunately came out in editing and showed just the loss of her memory. It had to be this way, however, because there was a lot of material, and this thread grew so much that it threatened with a film about Iga, and yet it was supposed to be about brothers.
Well, your character did not play the first violins, but probably not only in my opinion she stole the whole movie.
Janusz and the producers made sure that it was a movie about brothers. I cared about it and in the first conversations with Janusz I said that up to a point I would be fooling around and doing whatever you want, but then I want her to fall apart, because only then the viewer can identify with her and not she has the ease of judging that she is just a typical actress that she dropped out. The ease of assessing her behavior is lost. I think that it is through editing, which had to be shortened, that it sounds a little weak in the film. It could be better, but I understand it all. These are the reasons for directing and producing, but as if I feel a bit sorry that this crumbling Iga fighting for the quality of its brain and life is not enough.
Was the husband’s shaving scene one of the most difficult?
Yes (laughs). It was easy to play this scene because I really can’t do it. I’ve never shaved any man. To raise foam and cut, where it begins and what stretches … I remember in my childhood my uncles who shave so much, my home was multi-generational. But technically, how do you do it, I have no idea and it is not easy at all, right?
can it be some kind of learning or motivating effect on other people dealing with patients?
Yes. I think that is what this film is about. I even got suggestions from Artur Wolski to make special screenings for teachers and students at the Altantic cinema in Warsaw. This is important, although Janusz swears that this is not a film that would have any thesis and actually does not have it, but this film raises a taboo topic. He touches the fact that being fit, we have the impression that this is how the world looks, but after all, illness that lasts a long time is part of our lives. Sickness and dying are part of life. And for some time it has also become a product because it can be sold well in detective stories or action movies. Dress girls in sexy black pants, give them gangs and you can sell them well, but the one that lasts for real, long, which lasts and hurts, we don’t want to watch it, we pushed it to shelters, where other people do it for us if we have money. Sick relatives have the right to our homes.
Especially that fate is perverse and unpleasant situations can happen to us at any time; illness or taking care of a sick person.
Once in the theater parking lot, I noticed that my friend was coming by such a big, elegant car, so I said: Great, what a great car you have. She replied that she would prefer having a dad … this car after him. I found out that her father was at home until the end and his family looked after him.