We were lucky enough to have Tadeusz Łysiak speak to us in regards to his film, The Dress. The film addresses the concept of intimacy through the lens of a young woman who is a short-statured individual. The way those around her treat her leads her to have a difficult time obtaining relational intimacy and dealing with her desire to be wanted. Łysiak provided wonderful insight into the film and the protagonist that it revolves around.
What made you want to direct this story?
When I create a short film, I think of it primarily as a form of discussion with the viewer – I believe that, especially in short forms, you can smuggle in many interesting questions and raise important topics. I knew that I wanted to create a story about people who are excluded, lonely, for various reasons deprived of the right to live and love freely. I came across an article about people of short stature – I was immediately taken over by these stories, I understood that such a heroine would be an ideal contribution to some discussion, she will show things that are still bad and repulsive in this world – the human ability to exclude someone just because of their physical appearance or other characteristics. In fact, “The Dress” is not a film about people of short stature, it is a film about people condemned by society to loneliness, rejection, or incomprehension, it is a film about xenophobia, racism, homophobia, and all those horrible tendencies that sadly begin to play an increasingly important role in the modern world.
Has the film, thus far, gotten the reception that you hoped it would?
I think the reception even exceeded my expectations. Together with the entire film crew, we knew that we were creating an important, meaningful film that might start a discussion. We also knew that we were making a film about a heroine who – to my surprise – is hard to find in the history of cinema. So we were aware that we were creating something unique. However, the reception of “The Dress” was something surprising and unique for us, we did not expect such a turn of events. I am most happy about the awards Anna Dzieduszycka receives at film festivals – as a director, I am extremely proud that I managed to discover such an acting diamond and show it to the world.
Describe The Dress in one word.
It is always difficult to describe in one word or a few words a film that is essentially a question rather than an answer. If I were to use one word, it would probably be “desire”. A desire for love, a desire for another person, a sexual desire, a desire for understanding, a desire for happiness, a desire for fulfillment. Yes, that would be a good word.
What about this film do you hope will stay with the viewers after they see it?
Not wanting to reveal too much, the film doesn’t end in an obvious and joyful way – the ending rather evokes anxiety, sadness, regret, anger. This is a deliberate procedure on my part, in my intention, I never wanted to leave the viewer feeling comfortable that everything is fine in the world, the protagonist has experienced her adventures, problems, but everything is okay, you can stop worrying about it. I preferred each of us to start looking for that good ending in real life. That everyone would reflect on others, look at them with concern and compassion, and never judge them. Many people come up to me after the screening is over and thank me for this film, often with tears in their eyes. It makes me still believe in good.
What do you think makes this story so important for people to see?
I think this movie is important to people because, contrary to appearances, anyone can identify with it. Everyone once felt lonely, unloved. This story, although it has a rather specific character and a specific heroine, is very universal. By the way, he asks some really important questions about the moral condition of our society and the times in which we live.
How do you believe this experience changes Julka? Does it change her at all?
Julka is a very interesting character: although the world around her cannot accept her and she often has to deal with rejection, she is an incredibly strong, independent, and… very direct woman. It was very important to me in making this movie. I wanted to build an authentic and internally strong character. I think the experiences she is having in this movie would destroy anyone, and in some ways, they bring her back to square one, but eventually, she will get up and try to keep fighting. I deeply believe that Julka has finally found her love and is leading a happy, cheerful life…
This film is eligible to be considered for a 2022 Academy Award. Was this always the plan for the film and how do you feel about this?
It is a surreal, amazing experience that we cannot fully understand by now. We were shocked after every award won by “The Dress”, and the one won during the Atlanta Film Festival – knocked us to our knees. We are so grateful that our film receives such an excellent reception … and that it has a chance to be nominated for an Oscar. However, I have to say, though it may sound a bit pathetic and naïve, that really these awards are not as important as the fact that the film starts some kind of discussion and that I portray a person with a disability, which is often overlooked in films.
What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects?
Currently, I am focusing on further promotion of “The Dress”, but at the same time, I am writing the script for my full-length debut. Not wanting to reveal too much, let me just say that it will also be a strong, suspenseful story that will revolve around jealousy, obsession, and loss.