Jacob Mendez
Jacob Mendez

“White Courage”: The Polish film is highly controversial. It’s unbelievable what the actors went through on set

This Andrzej Marcisz, an outstanding Polish mountaineer and mountaineer, was a consultant and personal climbing trainer for the actors. How did he prepare the main actors to prevent a tragedy from occurring on the film set?

– WITH Jakub Gierszał my task was simple, because he didn’t have to climb in the Tatra Mountains. I taught him the sequence on an artificial wall, which he mastered almost immediately. WITH Filip Pławiak it was different. For good morning, I had to take care of his condition and physical preparation. He had to start training intensively at the gym and on climbing walls in Krakow and Warsaw. In addition, we went together to the Szczebel mountain in the Beskid Wyspowy, where I showed him the technique and familiarized him with the mountains (…) We worked every day for almost a year. But it couldn’t be avoided, because he had to be one hundred percent prepared – tells us an award-winning Polish rock and sports climber.

After these backbreaking preparations, did he have any doubts that his students would cope with the tasks set before them by the director? Marcin Koszałka?

– When the shooting started, I knew that Jakub and Filip would have no problems. They were ready to carry out much more difficult climbing tasks than those required of them. What’s more, they climbed the mountains not like an average person, but like real masters, especially Filip – admits Marcisz.

And there were many difficult shots that required great physical fitness during production “White Courage”.

– The most difficult challenges we faced were at the Pulpit Pillar. Fortunately, we only went there with seven or eight people, not the entire film crew. We had to rappel down 500 meters to get to the surface of Czarny Staw, where the photos were planned. Additionally, we installed three huge tripods in the rock wall (…) The photos required great effort, courage and fortitude from Filip. I remember that some scenes were repeated five or six times. It was extremely exhausting. At one point Philip had no strength. Additionally, the day was ending and there was a fear that it would rain, there would be a storm and it would become really dangerous. In the end, the rain poured down on us, but just as we were descending to the base, adds Andrzej Marcisz.

Before the “White Courage” team started making this unique production, it was known that the scenes causing heart palpitations would be played by Filip Pławiak. The risk was huge because the actor had never climbed high mountains before.

– Andrzej Marcisz decided to teach me this art from scratch. And he believed in me from the very beginning. I, on the other hand, love such challenges, so of course I agreed. He is a great teacher (…) Andrzej warned me at the beginning that he ensured my complete safety in the art of climbing, but he had no influence on what would happen to nature or the weather. Because a piece of the rock to which we are attached can always fall off. Fortunately, during the shooting, nature was usually favorable to us (…) We shot mainly on the Kazalnica Pillar and it was the most difficult there. In turn, we did winter climbing on Superściek, right above Czarny Staw near Rysy and in an icefall with ice axes. It was an extraordinary experience. Especially when the ice fell off when the ice ax was inserted (laughter) – says Filip Pławiak, who plays the role of Andrzej Zawrat.

Marcin Koszałka adds that he is extremely proud of all the mountain scenes in “White Courage”. Also because the above-mentioned Andrzej Marcisz supervised the entire logistics of organizing the mountain photos.

– Individual scenes were shot in the realities of mountain climbing one to one. No computer or CGI was used. The actors are not in the studio or the space around them (…) Indeed, the action takes place on Mięguszowiecki Szczyt, on the Mięguszowiecka Kazalnica Pillar. At high altitudes and in difficult places (…) It is also worth adding that preparing these photos was a lot of work. Tons of equipment had to be carried into difficult places, where there were often avalanches and dangers. Slovak carriers helped us with this. These are the last European porters. Additionally, the protection required the use of the best Polish specialists in mountaineering, who prepared security measures for the entire climbing area (…) No one was hurt, we had no fractures, damage or dislocations. We didn’t have to use TOPR’s help. We did everything on our own – notes director Marcin Koszałka, who is an avid mountaineer himself.

Not only climbing photos turned out to be crucial for the “White Courage” campaign. The photos in the Tatra National Park were also very important.

– It was clear to us that we were only guests here. It is nature, landscape, animals, mountains that are the most important – we have often given up taking photos when it turned out that a rare protected species appeared in the area and our presence could scare them or interrupt some rituals (…) We quickly we verified our capabilities and aspirations – it turned out that we could not transport either the equipment or the team by helicopter to the mountain peaks. It’s not that we can’t do it, we just haven’t received permission from the management of the Tatra National Park. The only acceptable and legal way to deliver film equipment to the high parts of the Tatra Mountains was to carry it with a team of climbers – led by Andrzej Marcisz and Marcin Polar – on their own shoulders. In total, the entire equipment weighed several hundred kilograms, says producer Agata Szymańska.

Permission for the film crew to enter a place specifically designated by the management and available to producers costs PLN 10,000. PLN for one day.

The film’s opening dance scene, which takes place at Morskie Oko, was shot with the participation of 170 people (crew and actors).

In the summer, the film was shot, among others, on the tower where Filip Pławiak climbed without protection. It is 75 meters long.

In winter, the photos took place, among others: on: Mieguszowiecki Szczyt Wielki (2,438 m above sea level), on the north-eastern wall of Kazalnica, on the wall of Kotło Kazalnica, near Czarny Staw (1,583 m above sea level), near Morskie Oko.

The team was unable to reach many high places. They were helped by mountain sherpas from Slovakia led by Jakub Kaczmarczyk from Poland. In one load, they were able to carry over 60 kg of film and security equipment into high mountains. They did not use the hiking trails.

The action of “White Courage” takes place in the late 1930s in Podhale. A talented mountaineer, a descendant of an outstanding highlander family, Jędrek Zawrat likes life on the edge. When he climbs, he chooses the most difficult paths, when he loves, he is ready to sacrifice everything. His chosen one is the beautiful Bronka. However, as a result of a family decision, the girl’s hand is given to the older of the Zawrat brothers, the sedate and serious Maciek.

Proud Jędrek leaves his hometown to seek oblivion among the Krakow bohemia. On his way he meets the mountaineer Wolfram. When war breaks out, the Germans offer cooperation to the inhabitants of Podhale. Maciej Zawrat, supported by many distinguished families, strongly rejects this proposal.

However, convinced by Wolfram, Jędrek, hoping to regain his beloved and save his community, cooperates. Jędrek and Maciej, entangled in history, forced to make the most difficult choices, loving the same woman, will stand on opposite sides of a dispute that will decide not only their personal fate, but the future of the entire region.