KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic — Leading Polish cinematographer Bartosz Prokopowicz makes a stylish feature helming debut in the Karlovy Vary Film Festival’s East of the West competition with the world premiere of “Chemo,” an unconventional love story. Although the narrative in many ways mirrors his own life and marriage to Magdalena, a remarkable woman who founded the Rak’n’Roll Foundation to change the public’s perception of cancer, he insists that the film is not a biopic.
Prokopowicz explains: “This film has been maturing and evolving with the passage of time. I did not want to make a biography, a therapeutic film or a film accounting for the past. I wanted to find a form that in a delicate and subtle way would tell about experiences related to love, life and death. I hope that I made something like a ‘positive guide to dying’ where love is stronger than fear.” Indeed, he hopes that viewers in Poland, where it opens on Oct. 2, will concentrate on the film’s message and see it as a universal history of love, rather than comparing the things they see on the screen with the real life story they know from TV and newspapers.
“The screenplay by Kasia Sarnowska was not a traditional script,” Prokopowicz elaborates. “It was driven by emotions. It looked more like a diary with notes. And that’s what our movie looks like.” Of course, having a made-up scenario rather than attempting to re-create actual events allowed him to distance himself.
Prokopowicz’s brother, Jeremi, also a noted d.p., shot “Chemo.” The helmer notes: “I was interested to know his way of looking at the cinema that he learnt while working with Roman Polanski and Brett Ratner. The family relationship certainly did help. We did not have to talk about certain things on the set; we communicated without using words. Jeremi approached the issue without any complex; with confidence and courage. We had a common vision of the film. We have already worked together before, our common language has been developing for years.”
Now that “Chemo” is out of his system, Prokopowicz is already working on a new project. He says, “Currently we are preparing a musical based on the biography and works of an excellent Polish poet and writer, Agnieszka Osiecka.”