Enjoying the Long Road and the Short Road with Diana Matlak

Of the many things Steve Jobs is noted for, film is not the most prominent. However, when he purchased Lucasfilm Computer Graphic Group in 1986 and dubbed it Pixar, he began one of the most popular new film companies in modern times completely based on the goal of making short films. Lucas’s own USC sci fi short Electronic Labyrinth THX 1138 4EB raised his prominence as an up and coming filmmaker. In 2007 Disney signed a new Cal Arts graduate named Tim Burton to direct a short (in actuality a remake of his original stop animation) film entitled Frankenweenie. Though the majority of movie goers pay attention to these names after their more acclaimed box office hits, the industry took note long before. If anything, short films have more prominence these days than in prior decades. The budgets are lower, the production schedules are shorter, and the studios have obviously been copying the Indie vibe that is so noted for its unconventionality. Many professionals in the film community have found these productions to both soothe their creative side and their prominence among their peers. Polish actress Diana Matlak stars in the soon to be released feature film Complex Living (2019) but has long preferred the expressive freedom that short films afford her. Her appearance in award-winning productions such as Coincidental Romance and The Train Trip led the creators of Complex Living to obtain her for the lead role. The actress admits that one of the most attractive facets of a modern acting career is that it allows her to appear in feature films, shorts, streaming productions, and others. Like many of today’s most recognizable actors, Diana finds that she is able to seek out roles on any medium without feeling the need to confirm to a set of preexisting rules for a career.

At the core of the film Coincidental Romance is the premise many of our parents used to tell us, “What you want and what you need are not always the same thing.” There are plenty of duplicitous and self-centered characters in this tale but Hannah [Matlak] is not one of them. Her superficial roommate Ann confirms her shallow nature when she ditches a date at her (and Hannah’s) apartment to go out with a different guy than the one whom she already made plans with [Jim]. Even Jim himself is duplicitous when he answers the door to tell Hannah’s date that he has the wrong apartment. The quandary here is that maybe two wrongs do make a right, evident in the connection which Jim and Hannah make as they commiserate about being stood up. Jim shuns the potential anger of Ann’s rejection and Hannah realizes that this somewhat less comely man has other emotional and intelligence attributes compared to her normal dates. Her immense talent as an actor and as a dancer (Matlak was a professional dancer and actress in her native Poland) is well displayed throughout the film including the final dance scene of the film. Coincidental Romance was an Official Selection of the LA Shorts Film Festival and received awards at the Indie Fest Film Awards and the Best Shorts Competition.

The actress is quick to point out that her role in The Train Trip required a much more calculated and unobvious approach. As the girlfriend of a man who doesn’t quite appreciate the woman he has, Diana was aware of the potential one dimensional appearance of her character and took great pains to avoid this. She relates, “She really cares about her boyfriend. She wants the relationship to work out but she is aware that respect is something you have to require from others if love is real. The most challenging part of this role for me was not to portray Hannah as a selfish and rude person. She has a good reason for being unhappy about the situation but simply displaying that won’t work on camera, you’ve got to help the audience to feel her reality.” The Train Trip’s awards at the Indie Fest Film Awards, Best Shorts Competition, and status as an Official Selection of the Cannes Film Festival Shorts Corner confirms that Matlak and her fellow cast & crew exceedingly achieved this goal. Diana Matlak found herself depicting two women in uncomfortable romantic scenarios; women who might be portrayed as very similar but in her embodiment came to life as dramatically different. With this in mind, it will be exciting to witness how she repeats this feat again next year in Complex Living.

Written by Kelly King

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