Why short films can often tell more than a feature films…
A short documentary film by a young Polish director Marcin Koszalka Declaration of immortality is an unusual look at the life and work of the famous Polish climber Piotr ‘Mad’ Korczak. Declaration of immortality can be defined as a Mountain documentary genre. In the first minute it may even seem as a fiction film. The scene where we see the rock climber falling into the lake, definitely suggests it. However, the film contemplating the question of immortality couldn’t start with a different image than a death one. What initially looks like a feature film or the mountain documentary is an original portrait of the famous Polish climber Piotr ‘Mad’ Korczak. The document maps his long career – as the director tries to uncover all the paths that Polish mountaineer left on High Tatras sidewalks.
Declaration of immortality shows an aesthetic images of the High Tatras. The camera literally tracks Piotr´s footsteps, follows “fingerprints”. Shots where the camera captures the snowy peaks of the Tatra massifs, or when it silently follows the movements of the Piotr hands – these shots are not only beautiful, but also full of meanings. That’s Piotr whole life – the passion of his life. Director doesn’t need to say more, it is enough if he just points the camera at the mountains and the viewer immediately realizes the depth of Piotr´s love and motivation. It is clear why he can’t leave it behind. His “love” is mostly presented in the details, in which director almost analytically clings onto Piotr modeling climbing grips – his hands are like the hands of the sculptor, perfecting his life’s work. The viewer doesn’t need to be an experienced mountaineer to understand what is happening.
Declaration of immortality is not a film made of words. This films speaks in the images. Although, it´s not like that this documentary doesn’t use traditional narration discourse – the “talking heads”. However, a discussion between the director and the main hero is presented as a game. Question is answered by another question, and sometimes it even seems like that their roles are reversed – and the one who is interviewed is not a Piotr, but the director. This kind of ambiguous approach to the theme, lifts this documentary from the mere mountain film genre (although it environment plays an important role) and makes it mesmerizing and intimate statement about the one man and the end of his journey.
Director approach can be considered essayistic – quite a lot of interest is given to the legend surrounding its main character. Or maybe I should tell, that it rather focuses on his inability to come to the terms with the end of his legend. There behind the Tatras, an important question rises – isn´t already time to go, and leave this place for the others? And Koszalka again answer with the image. In one shot Piotr falls of ground (the same path he has build years ago), while his younger pupil can handle it without problems.
However, this question is never directly answered. Director leaves it open. After all he already hinted at the possible ending (and as a former climber I assure you, that the metaphor of a falling into silence is certainly a nightmare). The only one who can answer the question is the main hero. He became immortal years ago, but despite the advanced age, he can´t stop.
And the time when he will have to meet one’s end is silently approaching.