Roman is a slick, brooding thriller which oozes style and turns Plymouth into a dark battleground of underworld revenge.
Made by a group of student filmmakers kicking up their heels during the lockdown, what started as a short evolved into a longer film, with a back story and mini-series potential.
But then, what do you expect to happen when eight filmmakers live in the same household? Cinematographer Marek Kawula tells us.
“At the time, I was going to make a documentary film about Patryk making a feature film,” said Marek. To make the test shots and checking of the equipment more interesting, Patryk suggested dressing up in leather jackets and pretending to be gangsters. And the idea for Roman was born.
“The film was really an experiment between me and Marek,” said Patryk. “I was testing storytelling and seeing what works.”
The team rode that creative wave to make something that had a taste of the films and filmmakers they enjoy. An inspiration that was an odd combo of classic auteur Martin Scorsese and less classic action flicks.
“I used to watch all the Steven Segal movies when I was a kid on TV,” said Patryk. “I like action cinema, and I like drama.
Action and drama
“With the resources available around us, action is a good way to access storytelling, before you try to do something more meaningful and important – it’s less painful, I guess.”
And the dark atmosphere took the story to another level.
“I wanted Patryk to watch the Michael Douglas film Falling Down,” said Marek. “What I loved about that film is all these crazy things happen, but it all takes place within eight hours. I love the concept of our film and how it’s essentially one long hectic night. The dark grotesque style complements it. And it’s sound adds to the reality of the city, especially supported by Chris’s soundtrack.”
A chance meeting online saw Patryk get involved with Chris, who really took to the film
“There was so much mood in the imagery already,” said Chris. “There was so much to vibe off – and the images just speak to you straight away.
“I took it as a real experiment,” he said. “I found a voice that reflected the corruption of the city then added a granular synthesis and lots of other things that break up the sounds, scatters them and makes them distorted to reflect the weird underbelly.”
On top of that, Chris took references points from other soundtracks. Russian folk music and video games.
Textures of the city
Chris’s soundscape also explores the textures of the city and the progression of the story.
“I created an arc representing how Roman’s character develops throughout the course of the story,” said Chris. “You start off with stable themes and structures and as it gets progressively darker – everything starts to alter and the character emerges through the whole.”
Patryk said: “His work has complemented the movie very well. When you think about the movie without his music it’s totally different movie. And it connects with the mood of, the nightlife.”
“I wouldn’t be able to write the music that I’ve written if it wasn’t for the mood in the frame and the structure of the film,” said Chris.
Rich back story
The story focuses on Roman, who has a rich back story. He was a policeman working in Moscow and after closing down a casino had to leave the country but is pursued by gambling debts. Patryk pulled on the trope of Soviet baddies that seems to be doing so well.
“It’s common and popular so I thought, why not take it and use it as the main character,” he said.
Filming a film at night-time during summer created its own problems – staying up.
Those summer nights…
“This was the first opportunity for me to become like a sole cinematographer for a feature film,” said Marek. “But we had to wait till 11pm to start shooting – I love waking up eary. But I start to curse when the sun’s rising and I haven’t slept. It took perseverance, but it worked out in the end.
“It was great being creative and making our student house look like six or seven different locations.”
Creating that new look wasn’t just reserved for the interiors, but the exteriors as well. Plymouth has a beautifully dangerous chic edge to it.
Exploring the city
Patryk said: “I spent a lot of time exploring the city with cameras doing photography with friends and just walking around. I think the city has a feel of 50s. There’s a cinematic feel to the architecture. Plymouth is a great city to create films in, because of the light as well.”