• Through the Trees

Fantasia 2020 Interview: Marygoround (Maryjki)

The menopause is liberating in Daria Woszek’s compassionate and radiant dark comedy

Written by Katherine McLaughlin

In the hands of Polish director Daria Woszek, womanhood and the menopause is turned into a compassionate, radiant Hopperesque vision. Working from a screenplay she co-wrote with Sylwester Piechura and Aleksandra Swierk, it was informed by both her lead actress Grazyna Misiorowska and mother’s experience of ‘the change.’ The film is even dedicated to Woszek’s mum.

Marygoround glows with a surreal beauty and pops with alluring pools of blue and pink. DOP Michał Pukowiec’s lighting was inspired by the legendary stained glass panels by Stanisław Wyspiański in Kraków’s church of St. Francis of Assisi as a way to turn the main character's apartment into “a sanctuary of sorts”, explains Woszek over a zoom call.

Mary is about to hit fifty. She’s feeling out of sorts, and after a visit to the doctor is prescribed HRT for the menopause. Her hormone treatment unleashes a newfound energy and as things take a strange turn she begins a thrilling and sometimes lonely and cruel adventure of discovery. Meanwhile her niece Helena (Helena Sujecka) begins to crash at her apartment after heady nights out and bad dates.

“The combination of Mary’s femininity and the wild Helena gives a perfect mixture of different kinds of femininity. At different points in our lives we are once Helena and once Mary. Menopause is something waiting for us, something that is waiting in the woods, like the big bad wolf! I was a companion to my mother during the menopause so we had these conversations. I was witnessing the same thing with Grazyna; being there with them at this point in their lives was why we started to write the story.

“For me, the most powerful thing I was told by my mother was that after crossing this ‘magical border’ of menopause she told me she felt relief. In our world, where there are so many high standards set in magazines and TV shows, we don’t want to talk about the menopause because it’s taboo. My mother and other friends told me it was liberating for them because you don’t have to do anything to please others. Finally, you can be yourself! The biggest question in the film is ‘who are you?’”

The film never veers into schmaltz and the dynamic between Mary and Helena is beautifully observed as they offer each other support in their own unique way. It’s joyful and weird and feels true to life as they pass each other in the night or catch up in the morning, one with a hangover, the other in a pensive state. Mary’s requests to be left alone to steal a moment for a luxurious bath, sexual gratification or to satisfy hunger are met with disappointed acceptance by Helena who is starved of genuine affection in her dating life.

“The movie is trying to define or explain the women’s sexuality. It’s a way to put our imagination and senses as women into the cinematic world. That’s what I was playing with, with the English title (the original title Maryjki is Polish slang for Virgin Mary and a woman who is warm) and with every level of the movie. I played with visuals, colour and music, and also genre itself in the movie.

“In the movie I change the genre from a dark comedy to almost a horror-like story. I challenged myself to try and make the audience feel like a woman; a woman during her fantasies or during her hormonal treatment. This movie, for me, is also a letter to future me; to remember not to be obsessed with stupid things and to just live your life. It’s never too late to experiment or to do what you’ve always wanted to do.”

Marygoround shows again at Fantasia Festival on 31st August.

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