Jacob Mendez
Jacob Mendez

Sandra Drzymalska not only about the film “White Courage”: My body is a work tool

In “White Courage” you play Bronka, who loves Jędrek, the younger of the brothers, but her father decides that she must marry Maciek, the older brother. Apparently the director of the film, Marcin Koszałka, chose you for the role of Bronka at the beginning, and only then cast the roles of Jędrek and Maciek?

Sandra Drzymalska: – That’s exactly what happened. When Marcin sent me the script, it was already known that Filip (Pławiak, the actor who played the role of Jędrek Zawrat – editor’s note) would play, but at that time he was still cast as Maciek. A lot has changed over time, but I was actually Bronka from the beginning and remained so until the end.

It does not surprise me. Your Bronka is amazing. She doesn’t say much, but there’s everything in her eyes – love, anger, helplessness, hatred. How many of you are in this role?

– Every time I build a character, I start with myself. With Bronka, when I read the script, I immediately saw her, I had images in my head of how she sits, how she walks, how she expresses emotions. I felt I just had to play her. And when I started to explore it, I became more and more fascinated. I felt that this character was in me, we have similar characteristics, but on the other hand it is different. However, I live in completely different times than her, in a different environment, no one makes decisions for me like they do for her. Understanding Bronka’s situation was difficult for me at the beginning, but I approached it with great acceptance and that is what allowed me to identify with her. Bronka rarely speaks, but it is part of her character. She is inbred, delicate, subtle and does not express herself only through words.

“White Courage” takes place in Podhale. Bronka is a highlander, she speaks the highlander dialect and dances beautifully. And you come from Wejherowo in Kashubia. Are mountains close to you in any way?

– To be honest, I’m a sea girl. I love the sea. I was born in Wejherowo, but then we lived in Pomerania for several years. We moved to Wejherowo when I was eight years old and I spent the next 10 years of my life here. The sea has always had a soothing effect on me. Sometimes I would just get in an Eskaem and go to sit on the beach and look at the water. Mountains were actually foreign to me, I had been on school trips several times. Only on the set of “White Courage” did I have the opportunity to stay in Podhale longer and get to know it better than from the perspective of a tourist. And things like dancing on the frozen Morskie Oko, getting to know the highlanders, their culture, and meetings in their homes will remain in my memory forever.

Bronka is very attached to the place she comes from, she doesn’t want to leave because “she doesn’t want to breathe foreign air.” This year, another film with you in the main role will be released in cinemas – “Simona Kossak”. Simona from the great Kossak family, in turn, looked for her identity in nature, detached from the famous family. And what was your path?

– Everything was focused on theater school. It is true that in Gdynia there is a Vocal and Acting Studio at the Musical Theater. Danuta Baduszkowa, but I wanted to go to theater school, so I had to leave. In high school, shortly before my final exams, I was in Krakow and I was completely enchanted by this city. I decided that this would be the only school I would apply to. It’s either this one or no other.

Krakow is far from Wejherowo.

– Very far away, about 650 kilometers. I think that apart from the fascination with Krakow, there was also a desire to go somewhere far from home, to be alone, to feel the taste of freedom and adulthood. Then I found out that the beginnings of an independent life without parents were not easy, at the age of eighteen or nineteen we are still children who need support. When I was a student, trains didn’t run for six hours as they do now, but for 12 or 15 hours, and it was mostly an overnight journey; I had a lot of classes at school, I couldn’t even go home on the weekend because it simply didn’t make sense.

And now you are a famous resident of Wejherowo. I read local portals – Wejherowo is proud of you.

– It is really nice. Apart from me, there is another actress from Wejherowo – Joanna Kurowska. Dorota Masłowska also went to my high school. We haven’t known each other since school, because Dorota graduated from high school earlier, but we met at the film festival in Gdynia.

Your mom is a nurse, your dad is a car mechanic. How did they react when you told them you wanted to become an actress? Did they try to dissuade you from this idea?

– No, on the contrary. I think that, paradoxically, the fact that they had nothing to do with the artistic environment and did not know what this profession entails helped, I didn’t have to prove to them that I really wanted it. My parents are fulfilled in their professions. Mom always wanted to be a nurse and dad always wanted to be a car dealer, so they followed their dreams. They saw that acting was very important to me, I had been taking part in performances and some recitation competitions since I was a child. I have the impression that my mother probably felt that this was my path more than I did. When I got to the second stage of the exams, I was very anxious. I said that there was no way I would go to Krakow, because I would definitely not pass and generally it all made no sense. And my mother just put me on the train and said: “You have to go, because if you don’t go, if you don’t try, you will regret it for the rest of your life,” so I went, I tried, and somehow, thanks to her, I got into this school. In fact, I received a lot of this support at home and it was a great comfort for me. But although no one in my family had a purely artistic profession, the person who influenced me was my grandmother Renia. She was an incredibly creative seamstress, she designed clothes herself and taught me how to sew. She had incredible sensitivity, some artistic kind of perception of reality, which I think I inherited from her.

The Krakow Theater Academy is the dream of many young people, and you passed it the first time. How do you remember the exams?

– Good, because I didn’t know what awaited me (laughter). I think that if I had known how long the process was, what skills were tested, what they would expect from me, I would have completely blocked myself. And so I approached it with great freedom, joy and gratitude that I could be there at all. I remember that, among other things, I read Stanisław Różewicz’s text “Cosmos”. At one point, the rector, Dorota Segda, asked me to leave the room. I thought to myself, “Okay, I guess that’s it.” But in a moment she came out to me and asked me to come back to the room and say this text with a completely different energy. It was surprising. I think they were just testing me, but in those few seconds I said goodbye to acting.

Did you feel good at school?

– I felt… separate. I was one of the youngest people in the year, in many areas, such as rhythmics and dance classes, I had no preparation and had to work much more than my colleagues. But all in all, it’s interesting that I didn’t give up, I met a lot of wonderful people, professors who believed in me, supported me and made me feel great pleasure in what I do. I had my first experience in front of the camera when I was a student. I played one of the main roles in “Paradise”, a study by Nastazja Gonera. Then I got the role of Ola in the series “Belfer”, directed by Łukasz Palkowski. I believed in myself and felt that film was something that attracted me to this profession, although previously I was convinced that I would be a theater actress.

It is said that on the one hand, an actor should have a lot of humility and, at the same time, a lot of self-confidence. What are you like?

– I think I have humility, but I can also lack it. Confidence in acting helps. However, I would not like to talk about certainty as pride, but rather the feeling that what you are doing is the best choice. I am very grateful that I can practice a profession that gives me so much joy. Every time I go to the set, I am filled with great excitement.

Are you very involved in getting into character?

– Yes, this process is very engaging and absorbing, I even walk with my characters on the street. But this does not mean that, like Bronka, I start speaking in the highlander dialect or, like Simonka, I suddenly live in the forest with a bunch of animals far from the city. Although it also happens (laughter). However, I definitely pick up on the character’s traits over time. Learning and exploring the mechanisms of various behaviors, stepping into another person’s shoes, sometimes time travel – all this is incredibly engaging. When I prepare for a role, I try to learn as much as possible, I read, I watch, but I think most of all I draw from observation.

You have quite an unobvious beauty, which predisposes you to playing the roles of ambiguous characters. Have you always accepted yourself?

– Not always. I think my self-acceptance grew as I got to know the world of film better. I am aware that I do not have classic beauty. But I have the impression that distinctiveness is very helpful in the acting profession. Besides, it’s not just about how you look, but what kind of expression you have and how the camera buys it. It is also related to charisma, some intensity, plasticity. Being so strong in front of the camera is super important.

Are you ready to experiment with your body, gain or lose extreme weight for a role?

– I remember the words of my dean, who told us that our health was the most important thing in all of this. Because if our health deteriorates, we won’t play anything later. Of course, we all know the stories of American actors who spent many months preparing their bodies to play a role and had dietitians and coaches to help them. It doesn’t work this way for us yet. For an actress or actor, sometimes even changing your hair is a problem, because sometimes one plan overlaps another, so these are not such easy decisions, taking into account the continuation of projects.

You often act in intimate scenes. Then you wonder how you will be assessed?

– It’s interesting that actresses are often asked about this, and very rarely actors, even though we don’t participate in these scenes ourselves. For me, my body, like my face, is a working tool that I offer to the character. I think the more I sexualize it and think about him in that way, the worse it will get. I like the fact that it is natural and imperfect. Intimacy and sexuality are part of our lives, so it’s normal that they appear in the cinema. I would like it to stop being a taboo. Today, intimate scenes are filmed in very comfortable conditions. Personally, I have never felt like my boundaries were crossed. But there’s something strange about meeting someone you’ve just met on set and having to do an intimate scene with them. For me, it’s not the nudity that’s the hardest, but the fact that you have to fall in love with this man for a moment and show him true passion. I don’t know if this will ever be easy for me.

Do your parents watch the movies you act in?

– Always. They don’t like all of them, but not every project is for them. I think that for them the most important thing is that I fulfill myself and develop.

Do you like watching yourself on screen?

– For me, the stage of work on the set is crucial. I have to be as prepared as possible and give as much as I can at a given moment. And then I can’t influence anything anymore, because the film passes into other hands – to editing, to post-production. And what I see on the screen is the result not only of my work, but also of many other people. Generally, I am very open and accepting of what I see on the screen. But the process of creating a film is long and a lot of time passes before it reaches cinemas. And I’ve already done other projects where I was completely different people. Of course, some parts of these characters stay with me, but when I watch a film on the screen, I look at the story, not analyze myself, I don’t think about what I could do better. Maybe also because I am a person who lives here and now, I focus on the present and on future plans.

Are you working a lot now?

– It depends what a lot means, enough for me. I am very grateful for each role. I remember well the moment when everything seemed to be going well, and suddenly the shooting of the film in which I was supposed to play the main role was postponed and I was out of work for almost a year. I didn’t know what to do with myself. There was fear of what would happen next. That’s why I appreciate everything that’s happening to me now.

Interviewed by Iza Komendołowicz