Berlinale-Blogger 2017 Cowardice is the worst flaw

Agnieszka Holland
Agnieszka Holland | © Jacek Poremba

Berlinale Talents is one of the most interesting initiatives at the festival. As well as networking opportunities and numerous workshops for young filmmakers, it also includes lectures delivered by recognized artists. One of the most popular was a masterclass with the outstanding Polish director Agnieszka Holland.

This year's Berlinale Talents is held under the motto 'Courage Against All Odds.' Courage is an expressive slogan, but also ambiguous – it can pertain to morality, life and profession, or have a completely private character. It can be manifested through action, but also through renunciation. Agnieszka Holland began her meeting with the audience by telling the story of how she became a director. She had originally thought of becoming a painter. The breakthrough didn't come until her relationship with a painter who was totally passionate about his profession. He was outstandingly talented, and she – well, she wasn't bad. He was able to completely lose himself in painting; she could do that only partially. "I realized that by painting, I'd never be able to express myself completely," said Holland. "Hence the decision to completely change my life plans."

Balancing between good and bad

Which, incidentally, wasn't easy, because it was accompanied by a painful change in her evaluation of herself. The director's profession, according to Holland, is associated with balancing on a very fine line between what's good and what's bad – not only in the aesthetic sense of the word. Humour is a great tool for the director, but when over-used it turns into a lie, an abuse. Putting forward strong theses is an expression of creative courage, but it can turn into propaganda, and all propaganda, even with the noblest purpose, becomes dangerous. "Contemporary European cinema is in my opinion comfortable, secure, bourgeois," Holland continued. "I appeal to young filmmakers not to compromise, to be courageous," to which the listeners responded with applause. Finally, by way of summarising her lecture, she recalled a quotation from Mikhail Bulgakov: "The worst side of human nature is cowardice. All evil stems from it."