Allan Starski is one of the most award-winning production designers in Polish and international cinema. There are not many people, who are able to create completely different worlds, in such a credible manner, as he is. He demonstrated equal artistry in creating the world in the shocking drama about Holocaust, i.e. “Schindler’s List” by Steven Spielberg, as he did in “Brunet wieczorową porą” (Brunet Will Call) – the cult comedy by Stanislaw Bareja.
For many years, he was part of the creative duo with Andrzej Wajda, providing production design for many films made by the latter. The films included “man of Marble” (1976), “Without Anesthesia/Rough Treatment” (1978), “The Maids of Wilko” (1979) – nominated for Academy Awards, “Man of Iron” (1981), “The Crowned-Eagle Ring” (1993), or “Pan Tadeusz: The Last Foray in Lithuania” (1999).
When in Torun, Allan Starski will receive the merit award of Tofifest and meet with the festival audience. More than that, he has himself selected the films from his extensive portfolio that have been included in the special section of the festival dedicated to his artistic work, at the request of Kafka Jaworska, director of the festival.
Oscars, Césars, and Eagles
The section will surely include the already mentioned “Schindler’s List” for which Allan Starski won an Oscar, together with Ewa Braun. It will also be possible to see “Washington Square” by Agnieszka Holland, “The Cut” by Fatih Akin, “Oliver Twist” by Roman Polanski, “Danton” by Andrzej Wajda, and “Hannibal Rising” by Peter Webber.
Oscar is not the only important award that Allan Starski has won in his life. The production design for “The Pianist” by Roman Polanski (the film won the Palme d’Or in Cannes) gave him the César French Film Award (in 2002) and the Eagle Polish Film Award. He was also nominated for the Emmy Award for production design in the war drama “Escape from Sobibor” (1987) by Jack Gold. He would later receive the Eagle Award two more times. It was for the production design in “Pan Tadeusz: The Last Foray in Lithuania” and in “Aftermath” by Wladyslaw Pasikowski. Did the awards he received make him a celebrity?
“I am for hire”
Nothing of the sort. The winner of Oscar is indeed a very modest man. In his book “Scenografia” (Polish for “Production design”), he even wrote that “a production designer is a man for hire”. He also emphasises the fact that he is always guided by artistic choices, when doing his work. Some time ago, he rejected a very lucrative offer from Hollywood, in order to make a film with Jerzy Stuhr, instead. “I can easily say that I have not made my films to keep a villa in Los Angeles, but I was driven by much more ambitious reasons,” he said in an interview for “Krytyka Polityczna” (The Political Critique).
He considers each new film a new challenge, and the key to his profession is… a drawing, according to his own opinion. “It is extremely important. Computers or computer-generated images – they are all just imitative”, he explained in an interview for “LaVie” magazine.
I change everything to make it look the way it did before
According to the winner of the Golden Angel, the basic element in the work of every good production designer is to set up the reality in such a way, as to make it look natural, in a film. “It is a completely false supposition that a production designer is a person, who finds interesting outdoor locations and interiors, which they will later show to the entire film crew,” he said to Anna Wroblewska, in an interview for the sfp.org portal. „The ability to design and create scenery in a film studio – this is the nitty-gritty of the job. If a production designer does not have that ability, he has merely learned to do the job,” he added.
“And even if it is a world in a science-fiction film, it must look realistically, too,” Allan Starski added in an interview for PAP Life.
The 14th edition of the Tofifest International Film Festival will take place in Torun, from 15th October to 23rd October, 2016. The main topic of this year’s edition will be a discussion about the rebellion of women and struggle for human dignity with reference to “Thelma & Louise” by Ridley Scott, which has its 25th anniversary this year.