Zbigniew: Some films and books have impact on people that you cannot possibly predict. Did you hear about this group of three young Poles who decided to follow the film character’s path? They started in May 2010, hoping to reach India in eight months.
Peter: Influenced by the book?
Zbigniew: Influenced by the book, by the film too.
Peter: So, where did they start from, Siberia? Where did you say they are now?
Zbigniew: From Russia,, yes. Last time I checked, they were somewhere in Tibet. They’ve been walking for eight or nine months. They are practically writing their own book.
Peter: That’s wonderful.
Zbigniew: People are finding the key to the mysteries of life in the novel type of secular sources such as movies. Watching them could change our lives.
Peter: When you’re making something, if you’re lucky and you’re inspired you become a kind of a conductor of that inspiration. You don’t live with it, so you don’t really own inspiration. In a way, when someone says thank you, it was thank the system, the inspiration, rather than yourself. I know that sounds very Buddhist. When I am touched by a painting, a book, a film, if I get some illumination, some momentary understanding of something or even not understanding, but you’re touched by it and inside how grateful you are. It’s a worthwhile pursuit. Sometimes in my life I’ve thought, “Well, it’s a pretty frivolous profession. Even childish, even something only young people should do. I’ve lost the feeling for it, filmmaking, and then it’ll come back to me. Usually it’ll come back through watching someone’s good work, or brilliant work in a film then I’ll get inspired again.
Zbigniew: "The Way Back" is an independent made movie, which, I suppose, has made it more complicated finding financing. It was done outside of the Hollywood system.
Peter: The studios have no longer developed films of this type, what they call adult drama. As of the last few years they’ve gone toward what they call “tent poles”, films which, appeal to all ages, essentially, children I think. They can make sequels of them and they’re very much the struggle of good and evil in a very simplistic way. They’re very successful, there’s an audience that loves them. I think they really, in the rush to this kind of film like Avatar, which can generate billions of dollars. That it is such a gold rush that they’ve actually left those smaller mines, if I take the gold mining analogy, that still contain vast amounts of gold because they’re too small to operate. This was the adult drama with millions of people who’d want to see those films have not been catered to. So, there’s a hunger, I think, or a disillusion with what’s going on by a lot of people. They say, ”I never find anything I want to go and see anymore.” And that’s because of this gold rush and then when you come to the independent world is a deep conservatism because of a shortage of money, shortage of audience, they tend to follow trends and trusted genres. They’re interested at the moment in vampire films or some kind of comedies. An adult drama like this is really hard to find a place for, but I know the audience is out there.
Zbigniew: What is your opinion about apocalyptic themes in the recently produced movies? Are they made to attract more audience or perhaps it reflects our fears of everyday life?
Peter: I think the latter or maybe a little bit of each. I think the climate change debate, if it can be called a debate, it’s really hardly a debate because there’s a lot of shouting voices. I think there’s a lot of fear and some believe the best way to make humans change is to make them afraid. I don’t believe that myself, but that’s a very quick solution. I know a woman near me, and I live near the beach, who said that she’s thinking of selling her house. I said, “I thought you loved it there. You haven’t had it long.” She said, “Well, you know they say that there will be six meters of water with the melting of the icecaps within the next few years.” “Six meters?" - I responded- "You’re joking, that’s not true”. And she said, “Well, that’s what I read.” She’s one example, but there are people out there who think the sky is going to fall in any minute. On our television deliveries tragic news from around the world, we see every earthquake, we see every flood, countries and people that are suffering. I think it’s added to a feeling which has always been with us, this imminent feeling of the world ending.
Zbigniew: Does Hollywood have a recipe how to make good films? It seems to produce only mega dinosaur like films. Are they destined for extinction?
Peter: No, I think they’re adapting successfully. I don’t really have up-to-date figures on how they’re going, but cinema attendance is high but for less films. Until in the ‘90s, particularly in Europe, there was a feeling that non-English speaking cinema was really under sever threat because of American product. People still want to hear films in their own language and maybe that’s where the drama will survive in non-English speaking films. That will be our Greek manuscripts kept by the monks in the dark ages who preserved the glory of Greek drama. Perhaps they’ll keep the flame of drama alive in Europe or Asia, while we English speakers just entertain children.
Zbigniew: I liked your earlier comparison of film director to a climber. I don’t know if I told you that, but like many other of my contemporaries I wanted to be film director…
Peter: You did tell me that.
Zbigniew: A friend whom I filmed fell of the rock and died. I read it as an omen and dropped the idea of becoming a film maker. On the top of that my family was against it because some artists in my family didn't do too well. .What would you tell a parent whose child wants to become a film director?
Peter: I think I really would say the obvious, which is to give it a try, but I would be suspicious if the child said, “I want to be a film director.” It would be better if the child said, “I want to create things. I want to be an artist. I think it’s film, it might be literature, it might be acting. Because usually those ones who say, “I want to be a film director." often are interested in the position, to be the boss. There are film buffs who like Scorsese and Spielberg picked up a camera in their childhood and that was meant to be their calling. But for a lot of these people who write to me, it’s not that. I think it’s really that they just want to make a lot of money and be on the red carpet.
Zbigniew: German film director Werner Herzog recommended to his students long distance walks. He said that this would teach them much more life than studying at the film school.
Peter: Get out and live life, rather than reproduce life from other films. Walking and travel by ship, which of course is very hard to do today. That’s how you get stories in slow travel.
Zbigniew: Would you advise them to start walking?
Peter: (laughs) Take a walk and think about it, yeah. I think film directing is maybe something that happens to you, it did in my case. It wasn’t a goal in itself, it just evolved.
Zbigniew: Some day somebody’s going to write your biography as a filmmaker. I am sure that it will analyze every single subject that you choose to make a film about.
Peter: I hope they don’t write it and I don’t think it would be a very successful book because I’ve put the best in the films. In between the films I’ve just rested and read and looked for another one to do. I think my life is perfectly like anybody else’s, but it’s the movies that hopefully have the more interesting side.
Zbigniew: Thank you so much, Peter, we wish you success with this new projects.
"The Way Back" - official trailer