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VENICE (Reuters) - Jerzy Skolimowski's thriller "11 Minut" (11 Minutes), screened at the Venice Film Festival on Wednesday, may be the most personal film of his career, the veteran director said.
Skolimowski, 77, who wrote the dialogue for Roman Polanski's "Knife in the Water" (1962), said his latest was inspired by personal tragedy, including his son's death in India.
"I lost members of my family and I was really in a very bad shape, physically and mentally," he told Reuters in an interview at the festival. His film is among 21 competing for the Golden Lion top prize, which will be awarded on Saturday.
"In order to overcome this, I decided that I would force myself to work and I really forced myself to sit down in front of the typewriter and I said I’m not getting up until I have four pages a day," he said.
The film's action takes place within the 11 minutes of the title, when a procession of lives collide in a square in Warsaw. Among them is a young starlet who is having an interview with a foreign filmmaker alone in his luxury hotel room, while her jealous husband paces the corridor outside.
Other characters include a drug courier, a pedophile teacher on probation now working as a hot-dog vendor, a young woman who has split with her lover and a water-colorist -- possibly a stand-in for Skolimowski, an accomplished painter -- who is a passenger on a bus heading to the square.
"It’s a human story, it could happen any place in the world," Skolimowski said.
Much of the action takes place with hints that police surveillance cameras are watching. A plane flies thunderously overhead, at low altitude, suggesting a link between the action in the film and the events of Sept 11, 2001, in New York City.
Skolimowski said the connection with the terror attack on the Twin Towers was not intentional, but the tragedy has long been simmering in his subconscious.
"That’s such a huge thing that my little modest film is not competing with any of those aspects," he said.
"Still, if there is an echo of it, why not? ... I couldn’t get rid of those images, so maybe 14 years later I somehow free my imagination of those bad things,” he said.
He said the film is meant to convey that every second of life counts.
"I wanted to share quite universal experiences, the fact that we don’t treasure our lives, we don’t realize that it could end almost any time so rapidly, so unexpectedly, and it would be too late after that to enjoy it -- so that is the message, universal message," he said.
Writing by Michael Roddy; Editing by Larry King