This week I had the opportunity to interview Kasia Klimkiewicz about her first feature, Flying Blind, which stars Helen McCrory and Najib Oudghiri.
McCrory, plays Frankie, a high level member of staff in the aerospace industry, designing drones for use in military strikes. Whilst taking a class at a local college one day, she meets the mysterious Kahil (Oudghiri) and they start an intense sexual relationship, which very quickly forces Frankie to reconsider everything she has ever thought about life.
Before talking about Flying Blind, I initially was interested in what made Klimkiewicz decide to go into filmmaking, and who her primary inspirations were. She said that these had changed over time and that she had been watching films since she was really young. She recalled missing school so that she could go to the Warsaw Film Festival and remembers a retrospective of Peter Greenaway, which was particularly important to her because it made her realise, at the age of 15, that although she may not have understood what was going on, it was weird and different and stood out on screen.
After film school, Klimkiewicz found herself in deep despair over whether she wanted to continue working in film and she remembers that it took her a good few years before she really found herself again and was happy to continue making films. Her inspiration has changed over time, but she admires the work of Greenaway still because it was important to her, how he used images and that it was more important than the plot.
The 70’s work of Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese stand out for her today, films ranging from Taxi
Driver to Apocalypse Now (which is her favourite film) and The Conversation. Today, she finds herself compelled by the work of David Fincher, who creates these mysterious, attractive and deep stories about humanity and society and what it means to be a person. Klimkiewicz understands the importance of a strong plot and narrative, but also loves the opportunity to access deeper, philisopical questions.
What I first wanted to know about Flying Blind, was where it came from as Klimkiewicz explained that it was proposed to her at a short film festival by the producer, Alison Sterling, who was looking for a director at the time. Sterling had seen Hanoi-Warszawa, her short film and wanted to know whether she had any plans for the next year. When Sterling proposed the idea of the feature film, Klimkiewicz was surprised because people are always offering things, but it only needs to be one project that fully comes together. She recalls working with Sterling like love at first sight, and that if you work that closely together it is like a relationship where you have a baby and everything needs to come together. What Klimkiewicz pointed out, was Sterling came with this offer before the short film won any awards, and therefore it was based upon the quality of the film that the project was offered.
Then I wanted to know about the casting process for Flying Blind, and how they decided upon McCrory and Oudghiri to play Frankie and Kahil. She admits that Helen McCrory was always on their minds, as Alison Sterling was trained as an actress and had been watching McCrory for a long time. She suggested her to Klimkiewicz, who watched some of her films and admired that she wasn’t a cinematic cliché. There tends to be a stereotype in cinema, that if a woman is independent that she has to be cold and tough, but McCrory can be girly and most importantly, real. Once McCory was on board, the rest of the cast was easier to find. Oudghiri was brought from Paris a day before shooting to rehearse with McCory to ensure they had on screen chemistry and could work together.
Flying Blind is a film with many themes including control and the balance between work and emotions, but I wanted to know whether anything was particularly important to Klimkiewicz, and what she wanted to bring out in the film. She reveals that because she grew up in Poland when it was still a Communist country, she still remembers it and how it has now changed over time. One of the biggest things for her was that she wanted to fully explore and represent how it is to live in a country that is stigmatised, and there is a sense of being trapped in the politics of the country. She focuses this towards Kahil, who represents a character who finds it hard to come from this reality and then merge into Western society, which is hard to do. She remembers feelings like a second class citizen, and wanted to try to portray this with Kahil, just like her uncles who were doctors in Poland and yet swept streets when they immigrated throughout Europe.
Klimkiewicz also saw herself in Frankie, who has a tough job and has to make tough decisions, which are usually done by men. She felt it was the same in the film world, and especially as a director. Therefore both the characters were a part of her and she wanted to bring her own personal experiences to the film.
In my review, I suggest that Flying Blind, very cleverly borders both an erotic drama and conspiracy thriller. I was interested in Klimkiewicz’s use of sex in the film and what she wanted it to mean for the characters. She admits that there is a somewhat prevelant exploration of the sexuality of the characters but didn’t want to exploit it throughout the film. She remembers these moments as the only times where the characters are truely, physically but also metaphorically, naked; both for the audience and to each other. During these moments they forget about logic and language, and Klimkiewicz even approached these scenes as dialogue scenes without words because she wanted it to be more about what they didn’t say to each other. She points out that Frankie and Kahil don’t look at each other during the sex scenes and that sex is not amazing in the first instance, but gets better over time as you grow to learn the language of the other person. These sexual moments was a type of communication for them, to say the things, they couldn’t say otherwise.
I wanted to spend a moment talking to Klimkiewicz about her characters, Frankie is an older woman in the film and I was interested in see how she was to be represented but also Kahil as an Arabic character, and whether there was any worry that they would fall into a racial stereotype. Klimkiewicz starts with Frankie and explains the character was always meant to be an older woman, but she wanted to say that even though she was in her 40s, it was okay to be desired and still have sexual feelings. She wanted show that it wasn’t odd that men were still attracted to her and that she was still having sex and recalls Fassbinder’s Fear Eats The Soul, as an extreme case of a relationship between an older woman and younger man. As for Kahil, there was a worry that Flying Blind would box the character in because he was an Arab; she didn’t want to say that he was a terrorist, but she also didn’t want to say he was a victim of prejudice either. She just wanted to be honest about the character, and show that he brings a whole collection of political complexities with him. Klimkiewicz just wanted to try and make sense of some of the politics behind him and says that she doesn’t know what to believe, because you just have to watch the news to understand that everyone has a different agenda and how can you honestly judge what is right or wrong?
During the interview, I really want to point out my love for the sequence where Frankie is standing in the wind tunnel, which is switched on and she just lets everything that has been going on sweep over her. I likened this scene to one of those in other films, where a character will go to the middle of nowhere to scream as loud as they can when everything seems to be falling apart around them. For Klimkiewicz, she wanted to look at Frankie as the engineer, and wanted to find something that would be visually interesting for the audience to illustrate her job. She points that they looked for a long time, and found the wind tunnel, which they ended up using but it was one of the expensive locations to shoot as they had to move the entire crew to another part of the country to do so. She laughs as she tells me that they filmed the scene using a dolly, but they had to push against the wind as it was blowing so hard in the opposite direction. She also tells me the entire crew wanted to try it out because there was a sense of letting everything crash around you when in the tunnel, and for Frankie there was a sense of release but also excitement and fear for what was about to come.
Finally, I wrapped up the interview by asking Klimkiewicz what was next after Flying Blind? Currently she is working on several different projects; she is currently on post production of a short film, which she has done in Chile with another film director through the Danish Film Festival, who pair directors up and give them a year to make a short film of their choosing with a small fund. Once she has finished with this project, she will be going back to Poland to direct some television drama but she is also working on two scripts at the moment, one with Flying Blind producer, Alison Sterling, which is in it’s early stages as well as a script in Poland with some development money from there.
I finished the interview by thanking Klimkiewicz and I wished her well on her future projects, which I will most certainly be keeping an eye open for and I am sure, will be writing about them on here.
Check out our ★★★★ review for Flying Blind, here.
I want to thank Olivia at Emfoundation for organising this interview and allowing it to happen.
Kasia will be doing Q&As as part of a regional tour for Flying Blind throughout April. Check out which cinemas the film is playing and to book tickets: www.flyingblind.co.uk
Follow Ollie on Twitter @olliecharles