experimental documentary film
What should be done when someone very close leaves you video cassettes with his recordings?
What should be done when he dies without saying goodbye and leaves you alone with them? A group of friends receives a testament.
What should be done when the recordings reveal that even the friend who is now gone was in doubt whether anyone should ever see them?
A decision is made to finish the film in his memory and let him speak once again. A decision is made to let him share his experience with us.
Krzysztof Nowinski, a twenty-one-year-old student of the Acting Department at Lodz Film School, decides to record a video journal documenting his stay at the hospital while waiting for HIV test results. In the beginning, the only quiet place where he can create his video chronicle in solitude are the hospital bathroom and toilet. All the time he is preparing for a conversation with his partner who is unaware of what the real cause of Krzysztof ’s hospitalisation is. The thought of being rejected and lonely terrifies him and he begins to ponder about his life with hope that the whole story will have a happy ending. At a certain moment he develops absurd and abstract sense of humour. He takes the camera to the hospital corridors, filming other patients and the personnel in his own peculiar manner. It all enables him to prepare for the moment of receiving the results which is continually delayed. His camera records the slowly dragging time and the emotions and questions which arise in his mind. The results do not arrive as expected, Krzysztof’s health is deteriorating but he continues filming even though he has a 40 degree fever. He begins to realise that he has absolutely no impact on what is going on in his life but begins to hope that, irrespective of what the test results will say, he will not be alone and have enough time “to do so many good things”.
Cast: Krzysztof Nowinski
Directors: Krzysztof Nowinski, Mika Rosenfeld (credited as Dominika Dlugokecka)
Director of photography: Krzysztof Nowinski
Editors: Mika Rosenfeld (credited as Dominika Dlugokecka), Artur Chmielowiec, Romuald Krezel
Production: Republic of Warsaw 2010
time: 77 min.
DV – 16:9 - stereo
Krzysztof Nowinski (16.01.1985 – 16.01.2010) was born in a seaside Polish town Sopot where he also spent his childhood and early youth. He graduated from the Plastic Arts High School in Gdansk. At that time he began to develop interest in theatre, mainly through cooperation with Wybrzezak Theatre in Gdansk – an association which helps young people to realise various artistic, educational and social projects. Krzysztof worked with adolescents from pathological families using art in resocialisation.
In 2005 Krzysztof began studies at the Acting Department of the Lodz Film School, the famed Polish film school which also has Roman Polanski and Andrzej Wajda among its alumni. He obtained M.A. degree in 2009. One of his major scenic achievements at that time was the role of Konrad in Stanislaw Wyspianski’s Wyzwolenie (Liberation) directed by Waldemar Zawodzinski and staged at Stefan Jaracz Theatre in Lodz. The play won The Golden Mask prize. In another theatre in Lodz – Studyjny Theatre – Krzystof Nowiński played, among others, in Pedro Calderon de la Barca’s La senora y la oriada directed by Ivo Vedral and Four based on Robert Musil’s The Confusions of Young Törless directed by Szymon Kaczmarek. The latter won Jury’s Recommendation award for the best play during the 27th Film School Festival in Warsaw.
In 2009, together with a group of other graduates of the Lodz Film School, Krzysztof founded Stowarzyszenie Dzialan Tworczych Republika Warszawa (Creative Activities Association Republic of Warsaw) which organised various theatrical, musical, photographic, plastic and audiovisual exhibitions and performances.
Krzysztof Nowinski also created the fictitious scenic personality Lea Divine. Acting under this pseudonym, he took part in numerous artistic performances and vocal drag queen shows in alternative music clubs in Warsaw. Through his scenic alter ego Krzysztof attempted to deconstruct the stereotypical understanding of male and female gender roles and to endorse tolerance towards otherness.
I didn’t know Krzysztof Nowinski very well. We passed by each other in the school corridor and attended the same classes. That was all. And unexpectedly, one day in October 2007 Krzysztof called and said he wanted to meet. We went to a pizzeria and it was there that he gave me the video cassettes. He wasn’t clear what precisely he wished to be done with the recorded material in the future but he said it was a very personal project and that, perhaps, it could be turned into a film or a performance. Krzysztof also said he believed I was the person with whom he’d like to work on it. I remember I felt really honoured. We decided we should meet once again, after I’ve seen the recordings, so that we could make some specific decisions. We tried to meet many times and every day when I saw the cassettes on my shelf, they reminded me quietly about the task which I promised but never managed to complete. When in January 2010 Justyna Wasilewska called to tell me that Krzysztof had tragically died, I felt great remorse. I couldn’t overcome the feeling that I had seriously let him down. When there came the idea to create a short film for Krzysztof’s funeral service I knew I wanted to take part in this. I spent many nights discussing with Artur Chmielowiec and Romuald Krezel which scenes should be shown and which omitted. Some time after the funeral we decided to create a longer film from Krzysztof’s recordings which, in a sense, would be a continuation of his life.
During the process of film editing, I had the impression that the materials were communicating with me and we often laughed that Krzysztof kept watch over the film and himself chose what should be included and what should be left out. Quite early I discovered the pattern according to which all the elements of 50/50 should be put together and it was an uncanny feeling. I discovered the convention, the peculiar rhythm and the framework of the film intuitively. We spent hours engaged in discussions concerning the shape of the film but the final form of 50/50 emerged very quickly and once it happened, something didn’t allow me to alter it. My general idea while editing the film was to preserve the simplicity of the form. I decided that the spectator should trust the character and that my cuts and editing shouldn’t get in the way. I tried to edit Krzysztof’s recordings in such a way that the spectator may have the impression of everything happening in the real time - hence the decision to leave pauses or subplots which at a first glance seem absolutely redundant but which, in fact, reveal Krzysztof’s authentic emotions and thoughts. One may argue that such a form is boring but in my opinion this ‘boredom’ and repetitiveness erase the distance between the character and the spectator who is forced to adjust to the pace of Krzysztof’s world and follow his thoughts.
We spent more and more time working in a harmonious team, and soon new people joined us. It turned out that a group of people, Krzysztof’s closest friends from The Association of Creative Activities Republic of Warsaw and those who never had a chance to meet him, absolutely selflessly devoted their time and energy to the creation of the film. We didn’t need great funds or professional production because the creative power was within the team. Working on 50/50 was a genuine creative expression, free from any pressures.
Using Krzysztof’s materials, I made a film which leaves the spectator disturbed. And, most probably, it is not a film for everyone. At times, the spectator’s patience is tested but, if he doesn’t give up too quickly, the character will reward him with a sophisticated, abstract sense of humour, brilliant performance and, most importantly, with an important and valuable message.