Now What Present At Dawn The Flowers Open The Gates Of Paradise

Our ninth annual showcase opens the door to Elzbieta Piekacz’s At Dawn The Flowers Open The Gates Of Paradise, a poetic, expressionist depiction of loneliness and love in London.

“At Dawn the Flowers Open the Gates of Paradise” is a short drama film, which tells the story of losing yourself in the feeling of love.”

Having premiered at the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2018, At Dawn went on to win the Best United Kingdom Experimental Short Film at the London International Motion Picture Awards as well as special mentions for its script at the Milano Film Festival. This stark and sensual piece of experimental filmmaking presents the singular visions of Polish filmmaker and artist Elzbieta Piekacz, mapping the emotional journey and memories of a heartbroken foreign worker in London.

Shun Yin’s measured, internalised performance of hotel worker Akiko contrasts beautifully against the crisp monochrome shadows of an oppressively grand hotel. Littered with archaic, crumbling statues and forgotten hallways, there’s a distinct absence of people amongst the windows and interiors. The rich, haunted atmosphere that results is a testament to Director of Photography Agnieszka Szeliga, who fills every circular frame with depth and texture.

The almost period styled production design from Piekacz’s collaborator, artist Gram Hilleard provides a timelessness and dislocation that is disrupted only by the fleeting shots of London greyness, and the stabs of noise from the busy streets outside, courtesy of sound designer Martin Lumsden. 

At Dawn was inspired by Piekacz’s own experiences working at hotels in London, and so this melancholic dreamscape lingers on the mind with an almost tangible emotional authenticity. In an interview with Contemporary Lynx, she explains that her

“first inspiration to write the screenplay was from working in a London hotel. I was fascinated by the illusion of that place and the disjointed worlds of employees and guests. Hotels as a ‘Tower of Babel’, the intersection of people on the way from different parts of the world in ’Hotel-city’ that is London on its own.”

Here Elzbieta explains how she first fell in love with filmmaking. 

“My first touch with art was via theatre when I was studying at the Wroclaw Theatre Academy in Poland. I was expressing my sensitivity by the language of film, as an actress and also present on the other side of the camera; Working as an assistant director, camera operator, screenplay and adaptations co-authors. I received Best Actress Award for “Double Portrait” at the 20th International Koszalin Debut Film Festival and the film was awarded during the 26th Gdynia Polish Film Festival and received Pegaz Prize for best film. After spending four years on a film journey through Asia and I started to take pictures and when I returned to Warsaw, I decided to deepen this knowledge at the European Academy of Photography. I moved to London which become my home and embarked on a long-term film project called “HOME”. At the moment I am working on feature-length documentary “HOME”, it focuses on the subject of the family, searching for identity, emigration, Polish-English ties, death, the circle of life and rebirth of nature.”

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