This episode presents our June masterclass with Agnieszka Holland. She discusses her body of work, what drives her, and her newest film, Charlatan.
This episode was recorded as a conversation between Holland, Editor-In-Chief Alex Heeney and Executive Editor Orla Smith in June 2021 as part of our Lockdown Film School series.
Highlights of the Agnieszka Holland masterclass
- Read our LiveTweet of the discussion here.
- Holland likes process. She doesn’t like to precisely plan things out (just general plans) but likes the journey of where the filming goes.
- Holland has directed two films in German, a language she does not speak. She got by by focusing on the emotion of the performance.
- Holland likes the speed of working in TV. But she also does TV because “the cinema of the middle”, where you can be innovative and thoughtful, has moved to TV. Her favourite format is the miniseries.
- The Secret Garden was one of Holland’s favourite books as a child, so she made the film asking what was universal and timeless about the book. She aimed it both at children and people like her, with nostalgia for the book. She notes most children’s films are about plot, but she wanted to portray the imagination and sensitivity of the children in the book.
Who is Agnieszka Holland?
Agnieszka Holland was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1948, and she studied film in Prague. She began her feature film directing career in the 1970s with the TV movie An Evening at Abdon‘s (1975).
The daughter of a Jewish father and Catholic mother, Holland’s family history is deeply entwined with the Holocaust. Her father was traumatised by the war, in which his parents died in the ghetto, and he did not speak much about his Jewish heritage afterwards. Her mother was a member of the Polish resistance movement in the war, and aided several Jews in surviving the Holocaust.
Holland has made three films about the Holocaust: Angry Harvest (1985), Europa Europa (1990), and In Darkness (2011). Angry Harvest and Europa Europa were two of the first significant films made about the Holocaust in the world.
Holland has made films in multiple languages, from English to German to Polish to Czech to French. After Europa Europa (which was Oscar-nominated for her screenplay), she made several films in English with English and American stars, including The Secret Garden (1993), Total Eclipse (1995), and Washington Square (1997).
In the mid-2000s, she started to work frequently in episodic television, particularly in America. She directed several episodes of acclaimed shows such as The Wire and House of Cards.
Holland’s films have been nominated for several Oscars: Best International Film for Angry Harvest and In Darkness, and Best Adapted Screenplay for Europa Europa. She also recently won the Silver Bear award at the 2017 Berlinale for her film Spoor.
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Where can you watch our Masterclass guest Agnieszka Holland’s films?
Our top recommendations
We’ve discussed all of the following films on the Seventh Row Podcast:
Europa Europa (1990): Available to stream on Criterion Channel in Canada and the US.
The Secret Garden (1993): Available for VOD rental in Canada and the US, and to stream on Netflix in the UK.
Washington Square (1997): Available to stream on Hoopla in Canada and the US, and rental in the UK.
Charlatan (2020): Available for rental in the UK at Curzon Home Cinema.
Copying Beethoven (2006): Available to stream on Hoopla in Canada and the US, Prime and Pluto TV in the US, and rental in the UK.
In Darkness (2011): Available for rental in the US.
Burning Bush (miniseries, 2013): Available to stream on Hoopla in Canada and the US, Kanopy in the US, and rental in the UK.
Spoor (2017): Available for rental in Canada and Kanopy in the US.
Mr. Jones (2019): Available for rental in Canada, to stream on Hulu and Kanopy in the US, and Now TV in the UK.
More Agnieszka Holland content from Seventh Row
Our conversation with Agnieszka built on our profile of her from earlier this year. We highly, highly recommend you read that in advance of watching the recording.
We recently released a Seventh Row Podcast episode about Holland’s body of work as a primer for Sunday’s masterclass. The episode focused on Europa Europa, Washington Square, and Charlatan.
We previously discussed Holland’s adaptation of The Secret Garden on our podcast, last summer, and compared it to the (much worse) 2020 remake. This episode is a Seventh Row members exclusive, as are all our episodes older than six months, but a year’s membership is super cheap and comes with a ton of benefits.
And finally, if you’ve been lucky enough to watch Holland’s new film, Charlatan (one of the best films of the year), or you haven’t but you want to hear about why it’s a must see, read our review.