Tuesday, June 6, 2023
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Erinyes’ Borys Lankosz

Marek Krajewski’s novels set in pre- and postwar Lviv and Wrocław served as the inspiration for the Polish crime drama Erinyes. From TVP (Telewizja Polska), the series stars Marcin Dorociński (Spies of WarsawThe Queen’s GambitVikings: ValhallaMission Impossible—Dead Reckoning Part One) as a detective inspector of extraordinary intellect and physical strength who is tormented by visions caused by epilepsy attacks, which he uses to his advantage in investigations. GoQuest Media is distributing the show internationally. Erinyes is directed by award winner Borys Lankosz, who takes TV Drama behind the scenes of crafting the tone, look and feel of the series.

***Image***TV DRAMA: How did Erinyes come about?
LANKOSZ: What motivated me the most was the desire to prove that (as D.H. Lawrence put it) “nothing is written.” Marek Krajewski’s work has accompanied us for a quarter of a century. The author himself is referred to as the “godfather” of Polish crime fiction. He is a living legend. Filmmakers approached his novel many times. Their plans were often very advanced. Yet they were never fulfilled. Curse? Fate? Bad luck? Whatever it was, I decided to go against it and accepted the challenge.

Today, thanks to this audacity, aware of the complications and hardships I had to go through, I think about that decision with satisfaction. It worked. Erinyes was captured in the frames and ensnared by the montage. Like the director of a circus I play in one of the episodes, I am now happy to show my beasts to the world.

TV DRAMA: What appealed to you about coming on board the series?
LANKOSZ: As a captain, I was aware that I was getting a great crew at my disposal. I was allowed to plot a course through the most fascinating abysses with our common determination and dedication to the cause. [The journey] would be nothing without the energy of my wonderful expedition companions. We never betrayed the most important desire, which was to reach our destination safely (and spectacularly!).

TV DRAMA: How did you take inspiration from the Krajewski short stories and build this out for the screen?
LANKOSZ: My basic condition when I was offered Erinyes was to allow me to return to the source. There was a script (a trace of which is still visible in the credits) that didn’t convince me at all. So, I said you have to trust the author’s vision. For everything we need is in his novels. You do not need to artificially color and change them or add something to them that is not there. Fortunately, consent was given. And so, I drew water from The Rivers of Hades (this is the title of one of the adapted novels).

TV DRAMA: How is the series structured, and what are the overall episode arcs?
LANKOSZ: Twelve episodes were based on four novels. It’s great proportions. They keep the intensity of the story alive. The narrative has no shallows and does not drag on unnecessarily. The first decision we made with Magdalena (my wife is the co-author of the script) was to condense the action. In the novels, this is a period spanning over two decades. We decided that the core of the action will take place in the years 1938 to 1939 and end on the day of the outbreak of World War II. It’s amazing to watch the hero and his friends and opponents, entangled in some conflicts and narratives, knowing that all this is happening just before the cataclysm. It’s a kind of “ball on the Titanic.” Our next decision was to place the last four episodes after the war. This idea worked great. Despite the noir convention, the episodes that take place in Lviv have a certain charm; they attract with a picturesque description of the criminal underworld. Then comes this violent caesura. And here we are in 1946 in Wrocław, which a moment ago was called Breslau and was a German city. Now completely destroyed, it is a post-apocalypse space: faded, shattered and terrifying. It is shocking to find our hero in it, and other people we remember from Lviv. Forced by the Stalinist steamroller of history rolling on them, these people flee to a new place, leaving behind everything they loved and considered unquestionably theirs. A few years ago, I made a documentary about Stanisław Lem (“Autor Solaris”). He was also from Lviv. I remember his sentence: “Lviv was like a part of sky. Can you give up on sky?” It seemed incomprehensible to the Polish inhabitants of Lviv that they were leaving their beloved city forever. After the war, my hero is someone else. Though he doesn’t mention it, the war is within him. And everyone around him. It’s a shocking feeling that I know from my own experience. I’ve known people who survived the Shoah. This experience helped me work with actors.

TV DRAMA: What was the look, feel and tone you were going for?
LANKOSZ: The first eight episodes are an original rework of the noir convention. It means that I avoid stylization, but I am aware of the genre, and I tell it anew, in my own way, just as it has been preserved in my memory after watching its classic works. I enjoy referring to it, not slavishly copying solutions. Recent episodes are drastically different—much more raw and aggressive. Devoid of colors and illusions. Because—Krajewski invented it so wonderfully unconventionally—what is at stake in the game is the right notion of a philosophical concept (whether the souls of innocent youth will be saved depends on it), I am much closer to my characters. I watch them in a way that is more characteristic of drama than crime. The shivers are present anyway because they are encoded in the intrigue itself, but the distance from which the viewer looks at the protagonist changes. The tone here becomes much more personal and poignant.

TV DRAMA: Tell me about Dorociński in the lead role.
LANKOSZ: Marcin is my friend, and I love working with him. It is clear that he is a perfect actor, flawlessly prepared even for the most difficult tasks, a loyal and dedicated professional, who follows your vision, while enriching it and unexpectedly taking it into a space that you could not even think of before. This space is full of energy. It sparkles and works in an excellent way to make the hero credible, to make him close to the viewer and poignant through his entanglement in evil and an attempt to reach good. But the key, as I see it in retrospect, is the friendship that Marcin gives me. It is so motivating and inspiring to have a close person next to you at work. This is our other artistic meeting. I hope not the last.

TV DRAMA: What, in your view, makes this Polish crime drama perfect for the international market, with the ability to play in any country?
LANKOSZ: I believe that there are adults everywhere in the world. It was for them that I made Erinyes. At the same time, I would like to point out that by adulthood, I do not [mean] turning 18 and having a good high school diploma. I mean state of mind. These are not easy and pleasant stories. They don’t fawn over you and make certain demands on you. When it turns out that you can fulfill them, they open up to you in all their beauty. They are moving and smart. Erinyes poignantly ask us what evil is, the existence of which cannot be denied, because it attacks us every day and from every side (and the inhabitants of modern Lviv, which is located in Ukraine, unfortunately, know this very well). Erinyes also provokes us to look for an answer to the question of how to live in harmony with oneself in the face of such a contradiction: each of us, despite being aware of the existence of evil, believes in good. So how do we act to be just? And what is justice anyway?

About Kristin Brzoznowski

Kristin Brzoznowski is the executive editor of World Screen. She can be reached at kbrzoznowski@worldscreen.com.


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