We were given the opportunity to speak to Tadeusz Łysiak about his short film, The Dress. This film touches on many universal topics such as desire and Łysiak shared some wonderful insight into Julka and the creative process behind the film.
What are three words you’d use to describe The Dress?
There are many words that I would like to use to describe this movie, but if I have to choose three, I’d say: emotional, shocking, and important.
What do you think will draw people into this story and film, in particular?
“The Dress” is about a short-stature woman who is rejected by society because of her physical appearance and has never felt love, has never experienced intimacy, and is very, very lonely. These are feelings with which everyone can identify – because everyone once felt suppressed, thirsty for feelings. This universal aspect of this story makes the film very emotional for everyone, regardless of where they live or how life treats them at the moment.
At the end of the film, Julka is seemingly back where she started; desiring something that she views as unattainable. What do you believe happens to her after the ending credits?
This film was never intended to give the viewer a feeling of psychological comfort – I wanted to ask a question about the condition of society, show what is wrong, distorted, and perhaps encourage people to try to fix this world somehow, step by step, at least with small gestures. So it was painful to take away from Julka the possibility of a happy ending, but I did it with full awareness, hoping that this happy ending might happen in real life. Despite this, “The Dress” is not a sad film, it has its bright, even comedic aspects – life is never black and white and I wanted to show it in the film. The last photo of Robin Williams, shortly before committing suicide from prolonged depression, always hit me hard. He is smiling on it, and yet we know what must have been going on inside. In “The Dress” serious, sad, and shocking scenes alternate with scenes full of joy, laughter, and lightness.
What, to you, made this story so important to tell?
I think of myself as a storyteller – before each project, I think deeply about what is important to me, what somehow hurts me in human behavior, habits, and why I would like to shake them up. In this case, it was similar, I understood that we live in a world where people are often doomed to loneliness, rejected, despised, whether because of physical appearance, sexual orientation, or other aspects. Then I came across an article on the internet about people of short stature and realized that it would be a great foundation for this story. Through Julka’s character, I could tell everything that was in my heart.
What do you hope audience members will take away from the film?
The well-known Polish director Jan Komasa (nominated for an Oscar for “Corpus Christi”) once said that he makes films in order to ask questions, not to answer them. I very much agree with that sentence. I would like “The Dress” to raise doubts about the condition of our society, to arouse emotions and help change the world for the better. A lot of people come up to me after the screening is over and thank me for this film. To see such a movement on the viewers’ faces is the best that can happen to a creator. I am grateful to the entire film crew that together we managed to create something that matters.
If you could give yourself a piece of advice at the beginning of this filmmaking process, what would it be?
A time machine would be a great device … In that case, I would tell myself not to stress: you have a great team of talented filmmakers, excellent actors, you wrote a nice script that touches on important topics. The worst part of the filming is this anxiety: will everything assemble well, will it be understandable, will it be enjoyable, will it arouse emotions? I would like to be so sure every time I make a film. But on the other hand, this subcutaneous fear is also a good driving force. It makes each step taken with caution and thoughtfulness.
What do you believe Julka’s driving force is?
What drives the heroine of my film is exactly what drives us all. The desire for love, understanding, intimacy, rapprochement, having your place in the world. It is sad that Julka lives in a place where she cannot fulfill herself, and it is only because of her height. At the same time, in a scene that is very important to me, Julka says: “Why should I leave this place? I was born and raised here. I have a job here … If I left, I would be a coward.” In my opinion, these words show Julka’s incredible inner strength. She does not want to adapt to a distorted world, she would like this world to be normal and accept her. Courage is one of the most important characteristics of this heroine. Despite all the adversities, she is still firmly on her feet, and despite the fact that in the end, she suffers the most brutal blow possible – she does not give up.
Do you have any new projects coming up?
For now, I am very focused on further promotion of “The Dress” – we have entered a very important stage, our film is on the Oscar longlist, which is incredibly surreal and a bit scary. But I am very happy that the film is so carried around the world that it is important not only for me and the entire film crew but also for people in all corners of the globe. At the same time, I am getting ready for my full-length debut, I am writing a script that will differ slightly from the topics covered in my short films, but will continue to look into people’s minds and look for what is terrifying in them.