An Interview with Roman Nowicki

AK: Is Fantom Kiler your first movie as director?
RN: It is my first feature length film
AK: How would you describe it to an unsuspecting audience?
RN: I would say it is a very dark comedy
AK: But not a comedy as we may know it.
RN: In fact. The comedy is below the surface. It is a comedy without jokes
AK: I've seen a few of those in my time.
RN: (Laughs) I mean a comedy in the dramatic sense, a schizophrenic comedy, you don't know whether to laugh at the outrageousness of it all or be totally shocked.
AK: In my opinion a horror film that is comical is really just apologizing for itself.
RN: Well I make no apologies for my film and I'm sure my film does not ask for your forgiveness.
AK: You talk about it as if it's your own child.
RN: In away, maybe it is.
AK: So lets talk about your child. Would you say that Fantom Kiler is a comment on society?
RN: In what way?
AK: Does it carry a message?
RN: Intentionally no but unintentionally… maybe. I don't like to look to deep. Basically Fantom Kiler is an erotic horror fantasy.
AK: Some may say a misogynist's fantasy.
RN: Are you saying that I am a misogynist?
AK: Well are you?
RN: Of course not and I resent that question. I work with many women all the time and I enjoy their company. In fact all the women I have worked with have been far more professional than any of the men. I find that a woman, maybe because within herself she is more liberated, will always give more in the work environment than a man. A man will often tend to hold back, or will not give a centimeter more than is required of him. I think many men see "giving" as a sign of weakness, whereas for women, they are used to giving all their lives, it is natural for them.
AK: So you are a big fan of women?
RN: A huge fan. I heard one Iranian film director say, "Women are the disinherited of the world". Maybe he was talking about Muslim women but in any event I feel that women in general often have to put in extra effort to gain an equal piece of the action.
AK: So are you in touch with your feminine side?
RN: Are you in touch with your masculine side?
AK: I think what this planet needs is less Testosterone and more Estrogens.
RN: Or less X and more Y.
AK: Maybe in your case less XXX, anyway if you are such a feminist, why then is Fantom Kiler so misogynistic in its content?
RN: The human being is a very complex animal, obviously some humans more than others. Psychologists can write whole books on this and you want me to give you quick answers. On one hand you could say that the so-called misogynistic acts committed in the film re-enforce what I have just said. The men come off as the weaker sex by having to use force to control the situation when it is not in their favor. On the other hand you could say, "Tits sell films"
AK: I think its more a case of the latter. Anyway this is more than "tits", this is an endless display of gratuitous full frontal nudity.
RN: Well I don't believe in doing things by halves.
AK: Let's move away from the philosophy of the movie and dwell more on the content. What is the exact premise of the film?
RN: Sorry?
AK: What is the plot?
RN: It is about the manifestation of hatred. A theme initially raised in Shakespeare's The Tempest.
AK: …and also revisited in the 50's science fiction movie The Forbidden Planet.
RN: Really? Well in the Fantom Kiler it is a misogynistic hatred and so the men, or man, in order to get even, lure the women into a painful, humiliating death. The Fantom makes up for the man's shortcomings by being strong, attractive to women and able to outwit the female sex. Through his clever scheming they almost willingly (though unknowingly) place themselves into the arms of death.
AK: …As, for instance, when Eliza Borecka has to strip naked so that she can climb through a barbwire fence.
RN: And that was real barbwire, by the way.
AK: She is very beautiful, where did you find her?
RN: She had never acted before, she had only done modeling work but she was very natural and looks great on camera. She's a natural born woman, no additives.
AK: Was the scene were she is stabbed repeatedly between the legs difficult to direct.
RN: I was worried about how she may react. It is a very strong scene and seems to go on for ages, maybe too long, in retrospect. I remember that the days' shooting was fine and good-humored but prior to this scene Eliza seemed to be withdrawn. But when I asked if she would like to take a break before filming the scene she said no and we got on with it. Maybe I was being over sensitive as during the shooting she couldn't stop laughing and was even demanding more blood.
AK: You wouldn't realize that from watching. It is a very intense moment.
RN: In this scene I wanted to create an eerie intimacy between the killer and the victim. Just as it takes two to have sex, it also takes two to have a murder. Maybe at some stage between the realization of the deadly situation and just before the last breath is drawn there could be a strange affinity between the two protagonists.
AK: That's a very controversial opinion.
RN: It is not something I truly believe and I'm definitely not defending murderers, etc. We are in the world of fantasy. It is just a suggestion to open the debate. Maybe I am just playing Devil's Advocate here.
When I first had this scene in mind I wanted it to play like a ballet. This beautiful woman being killed by a masked stranger, as if she was a dying swan. I was thinking of having the whole scene played in silence or maybe play Saint-Saens Le Cygne over the top. Maybe I will re-edit it some day. Who knows?
AK: Exit Eliza Borecka.
RN: After the final shot where we pan back, she got up and was covered in blood (fake of course) and leaves and God knows what, I thought "what have we done to this top Polish model?" but she didn't seemed to mind at all. We shall definitely be working with her again in the future.
AK: There are so many beautiful women in Fantom Kiler. How did you find them?
RN: From adverts or friends of friends. The woman who played Carla, the station cleaner was a Russian Ballerina. She comes from Siberia. She used a pseudonym for the film.
AK: Was that her first film?
RN: As far as we know.
AK: How was she with the nudity?
RN: No problem. Very business likes about the whole thing. She plays a kind of cameo too as one of the naked girls in the station. That was her first nude scene she had ever done, having to stand there naked as loads of extras walk past but she acted as if she was completely dressed. That scene was shot on a very cold day and we had to have so many fires on I remember.
AK: Then she re-appears about half way through Fantom Kiler as the porn loving Carla who has come to clean the station. The scene where Marek the chauvinistic janitor tries to pull the wooden spoon out of her ass must be a cinema first.
RN: Yes the famous Excalibur scene. Quite a novel adaptation of the king Arthur tale, don't you think?
AK: Almost surreal. So does it really go in?
RN: In where?
AK: You know what I mean.
RN: You've seen the film. You should know.
AK: Well it looks pretty realistic; I hope she didn't get splinters.
RN: No she was okay. Still I guess its not the proper way to treat a ballerina.
AK: Later on, after a scene reminiscent of an Aubrey Beardsly drawing, an even bigger object, a mop attacks her.
RN: A very poetic justice, considering her new found line of work, don't you think? He who lives by the mop shall die by the mop.
AK: I believe that's a line in the film
RN: If it was translated properly.
AK: I guess it must be a comedy in a way as much of the dialogue made me laugh, for instance when the killer holds Carla's lesbian lover's decapitated head in his hand, he says, " So you like to gamble do you Carla? Well tails you win, heads she looses" and throws her head across the room.
RN: That's purely for the English translation. In Poland we say "Eagle or Obverse" when tossing a coin, as we have the Polish Eagle on the face of our coins. No chance for a pun there I'm afraid.
AK: They drink a lot of Zubrowka vodka in the film, were you sponsored by them?
RN: No I just happen to drink a lot of the stuff. It helps to get the creative juices flowing, so there's always an empty bottle or two lying around. But sponsorship, now there's a thought.
AK: Magda Szymborska is another very statuesque woman.
RN: Yes she is very well endowed, or should I say enhanced.
AK: She actually gets closest to the Fantom and even seems to like him.
RN: Yes he is a cruel Fantom. He definitely shows no mercy. Once again he cleverly gets the girl to lose all her clothing before exacting his punishment.
AK: I thought that having to take off her clothes so that the killer can use her pair of tights as a fan belt is pushing the boundaries of believability a bit?
RN: In this world, anything is possible. My belief is that if you imagine a situation, no matter how bizarre, how extreme or how crazy, if it could possibly happen, then somewhere, at sometime, on this vast planet of ours, it probably has and who are we to deny it?
AK: Even the scene where she is about to get a chisel up the bum?
RN: Well now you're just giving the plot away.
AK: Earlier you mentioned that you thought about incorporating a classical piece into the film, in fact the music is anything but classical. For me it's one of the best scores I've heard for a long time. A real hard driven relentless riff that builds and builds.
RN: Yes I was very pleased with the music. It was not what I had envisaged at all. I was going to incorporate a more continental jazz style of score.
AK: I believe it was played and performed by Frank Cossack.
RN: Yes that's right, although I think he used a pseudonym for the film.
AK: Why?
RN: I have no idea. Maybe he did not want to be connected with some of the content.
AK: I can see his point. In fact there are quite a few different musical themes in the film include a really pretty cocktail jazz theme, which is quite a departure.
RN: Carla's Theme. Yes I know it. It works well in the movie and stands up as a nice tune by itself. We even use a bit of old fashioned split screening in that scene.
AK: Yes I was going to mention some of the cinematography. There is much segueing in and out of eyeballs, etc.
RN: Too much really, I must stop that.
AK: And the scene where the telephone comes flying out of the eyeball…
RN: Some kind of "tacky Dali-esque nightmare", I think is how one critic described it.
AK: And he was right.
RN: If in doubt, leave it in. That's my philosophy.
AK: As for Frank Cossack, will he be working with you in the future?
RN: I'm certain of it.
AK: Talking of which, I hear that there will be a sequel.
RN: With the reaction I've had to the Fantom Kiler I'd be crazy not too. I prefer to think of The Fantom Kiler as a potential series. There are so many different arrangements you can do on the main theme; it leaves itself open to so many interpretations.
AK: And when will Fantom Kiler 2 be ready?
RN: In a word, teraz.
AK: As in your production company?
RN: Correct.
AK: So what does "Teraz" mean?
RN: Go and look it up.
AK: And while we're on this subject, why the one "L" in Kiler?
RN: That's the Polish spelling of Killer but a "Kiler" in Polish is more of a hired assassin than a murderer, which in away, is what he is.
AK: Well now we know. Roman Nowicki thank you very much
RN: My pleasure.

Interviewed by Anna Kolos.