Zdzisław Najmrodzki, who died in 1995, was one of the most infamous Polish criminals of the communist period. Called the “King of Thieves” and “Master of Escapes”, he has escaped pursuit 29 times. He once jumped out the window of a slow train, claiming to have seen a stork and felt the call of freedom. But “The Getaway King” by Mateusz Rakowicz, who will star this week in the main competition of the EnergaCamerimage Film Festival, doesn’t get too close to the facts.
“As a historical figure, Najmrodzki is not a hero,” says DP Jacek Podgórski. “At that time, everyone was afraid of the militias, so escaping them 29 times was quite an achievement. But that says more about them than it does about him. Once he just got them drunk. We have expanded the myth and fundamentally reinvented it.
Podgórski used his father’s old photographs as a reference, deciding to incorporate their reddish tint into the film. As well as postcards illustrating the “golden age” of the Polish People’s Republic.
“There were whole groups of people, all photographing Polish towns in exactly the same way: they always looked clean, the skies were clear, there were no homeless people around and no ‘drunks in the streets,’ he said.
“I remember those times. I remember waiting in line as an “extra person” to buy toilet paper because to have more, you had to come with a child. But this time the harsh reality just wasn’t important to us.
Full of references and nostalgia (“People rewind tapes with a pencil here. Everyone was doing it,” he says), “The Gateway King” was always meant to be entertainment first, says Podgórski, passing by. slowly from a heist film to a romantic action comedy.
“As our lead actor Dawid Ogrodnik said at the end, there has to be love in the film. And here. We meet ‘Najmro’ at the height of his popularity. He has everything, but he has no love. It will make it grow, ”he says.
“There’s a lot going on in the movie, also visually, and of course not everyone will buy it. But it was still supposed to be a feast for the eyes, ”he adds.
“Now was not the time to limit myself. I needed a little nonchalance to succeed, that “I don’t care” attitude that Najmrodzki had. Today it is difficult to impress someone with a picture. But we’re talking about a time when you didn’t need much to make a good impression: just a closet full of suits, nice shirts, and a gold watch.
“The Gateway King”, produced by TFP, will be distributed in Poland by Dystrybucja Mówi Serwis.
Podgórski, who is currently filming Netflix’s “Barbarians” series in Krakow with director Lennart Ruff, will be reuniting with Rakowicz on an action film. “We think we have a lot more to offer,” he says.
“I don’t know how I got here. I’m a little ashamed, ”says Podgórski, who has already won a Bronze Tadpole at Camerimage for a short film,“ The Body of Mine ”, which he also directed. In 2018, he shot “The Mute” by Bartosz Konopka, which takes place in the early Middle Ages.
“It gained popularity at genre film festivals, where it was primarily viewed as a horror film. It’s interesting when the reception is so different, ”he adds. Just like in the case of “Forever Mine” by Paul Schrader, presented at the Polish festival in 1999. “People saw it as a pastiche and it just followed the conventions of the genre. He was not happy because the audience was laughing and he made a serious film. Movies that follow convention are usually not well respected and this whole situation taught me a lot, ”he says.
“The most important thing is that we don’t pretend to be something that we are not. I’m glad “The Getaway King” is here, but it’s mentioned next to “The Last Duel” or “Dune” and it’s just crazy. For a viewer outside of Poland, it will be completely exotic ”, he laughs.