It`s not that easy to write about Petr Kazda and Tomás Weinreb’s I, Olga Hepnarová and stay indifferent to the issue told in the film. It touches upon a painful subject matter that, I am afraid, we all failed to learn from. It goes back to July 10th, 1973 when eight people were killed and more injured by a truck in Prague, driven by Hepnarová. Yes, this film and even the message delivered by a mass murderer conveys a crucial message that should be passed on… especially to those who’re potential bully.
As the story unfolds, there are many interesting facts come out about Olga Hepnarova. However, during my interview over the phone with Polish actress Michalina Olszanska I could learn more about the character she portrayed, as well as her approach, that helped Olga Hepnarova for a very last time – to come back to life.
MOVIEMOVESME: You play a real-life character who back in 1973 drove a truck into a group of people to deliver a “message”. Can you talk about the character you played and your involvement in the project?
Michalina Olszanska: It was between Poland and Czech Republic. So they were searching for an actress from Poland or Czech Republic. They just kind of found me and the first time I met the director we kinda agreed that we wanted to work together. They liked me from the beginning. When I read the script for the first time I felt this story should be told because this story is not just about the murderer, it’s a story about a human being who’s so lonely and is so destroyed that she committed suicide. We talked a lot about the character. I was given my space and I appreciate that greatly because I felt that freedom you want when you’re working with directors.
MOVIEMOVESME: What kind of research did you do on Olga which enabled you to give such a fantastic performance?
Michalina Olszanska: I didn’t try to copy the real person because it wouldn’t have been possible; we didn’t have a lot of material. Her family didn’t want to talk to us about her and we just had some documents from the court and a couple photos. I just wanted to create a person based on the real Olga. Olga wasn’t so skinny but we decided to add that to relate it to the teenagers nowadays. So I can’t say this is like the real Olga; it’s a variation of Olga.
MOVIEMOVESME: As an actress, what is it you do to deliver such a performance?
Michalina Olszanska: First, I wanted to understand her because of course we can’t explain what she did or justify her but we can understand why she did it and what pushed her to do that. It was important to find the sadness and emptiness she had to feel in myself. The way she moves was very important to me because I think it explains a lot about us. The way I walk in the movie is special and I found it because I knew she wanted to look strong but was so weak on the inside. This thing was growing inside me like pregnancy!
MOVIEMOVESME: How did you picture Olga when you were playing her and trying to get into her skin? Did you see her as a sufferer of mental sickness, a victim or a mass murderer?
Michalina Olszanska: I didn’t want her to be mentally sick because it’s too easy. We try to explain it to ourselves because we think it will never come to us as we’re mentally stable. The problem is that such a thing can happen to anyone. At the end of the movie we show there’s a mental disorder or something but this is just the end of the movie and we’re not sure maybe she wanted to rescue herself in the end or something. In the beginning, I think she was very intelligent, very sensitive but not sick. I wanted to show a girl who was just like any girl of her age and it’s the people who made her like that; she wasn’t born a monster, no one is.
MOVIEMOVESME: What can we learn from this film to stop such an event from happening in the future?
Michalina Olszanska: I think this is human nature that people bully each other and it will never stop I think. We are all animals and it is like an instinct to crush someone if we don’t like them. We can only point this out. The problem with Olga was not just that people were bullying her but no one tried to help her. What we can do is to try to give a hand to such people like Olga. So, the problem is not people bullying but people not helping.
MOVIEMOVESME: What was the best thing about creating this character and being a part of such an important film?
Michalina Olszanska: I quite often play the bad guys; psychopaths, murderers. This summer I played a mother who kills her own son. It is always a tragedy for me and I have to clean my mind after such roles but on the other hand it’s also a kind of relief or maybe catharsis because watching such a person trying to find a piece of light in those people forces me to evaluate myself and the people around me. When I was playing Olga I was talking a lot about myself when I was a teenager. I think this is the best way that it helps me understand and I treasure it a lot.