Krzysztof Kieslowski 1941–1996
The following entry presents an overview of Kieslowski's career through 1998.
Kieslowski was a widely acclaimed and respected Polish film director known for works which dealt with labor- and industrial-related subjects. Although his films have important political implications for Poland, he did not fit in with either hard-line Communists or political dissidents. Eventually Kieslowski turned his attention to more universal social themes which garnered him international attention.
Kieslowski was born in Poland in 1941. During World War II, the Kieslowski family relocated several times. After the war, his father contracted tuberculosis and spent time in a sanitarium before finally succumbing to the disease while Kieslowski was still a boy. His father's death had a profound effect on his life; the impact the dead have on the living became a prevalent theme in many of his films. Kieslowski's childhood was bleak. His mother was forced to work at a series of clerical jobs to support the family, and Kieslowski himself suffered from lung disease. Kieslowski's original interest was in stage direction, but he decided to attend film school to prepare himself for his career as a stage director. He applied to the prestigious Lodz School of Cinema and Theatre and completed his cinematic studies in 1969. Despite the political themes of his films, Kieslowski had very little involvement in politics, with the exception of a small role in a student uprising over the deportation of Jews from Poland in 1968. After graduation from Lodz, he began making documentaries about life behind state propaganda. Television feature films depicting bleak lives in oppressive states such as Podziammne przajscie (Pedestrian Subway; 1973) and Personel (Subsidiaries; 1973) established his reputation as a daring, provocative filmmaker. He became disenchanted with documentaries when he realized his footage could be used by the authorities against his subjects, and turned instead to feature films. Kieslowski was never prohibited from making films in Poland, but the Polish government frequently stopped or limited distribution. Kieslowski retired from filmmaking after making the trilogy Trois Couieurs (Three Colors; 1993–94), saying he had lost the patience it required to be a director. He died of heart failure in 1996.
Many of Kieslowski's films deal with the struggle between inner reality and social reality. Amator (Camera Buff; 1979) is the story of a worker turned amateur video cameraman. After buying a video camera to record milestones in his baby's life, the protagonist becomes fascinated with capturing life on film. Przypadek (Blind Chance; 1981) concerns the arbitrary nature of life. Kieslowski relates three different versions of a young man's life based on whether or not he catches a train to Warsaw. In one scenario he catches the train and becomes a Party activist, in another he misses the train and becomes a dissident, and in the last he stays home and becomes a politically neutral family man. Bez Konca (No End, 1984) focuses on a human rights lawyer who dies just before he is scheduled to defend a Solidarity activist. The film examines events following his death, his wife's subsequent suicide, and the activist's plight after an unscrupulous lawyer takes over the case. The film has religious undertones and contrasts the personal and the political. Dekalog (Decalogue, 1988) is a series of ten short films based on the Ten Commandments. The films deal with ordinary people struggling with everyday moral choices. They are tied together by a recurring character, an angelic figure who acts as a silent witness to the action of the films. La Double Vie de Véronique (The Double Life of Veronique; 1991) follows two women as they lead parallel lives in Warsaw and Paris. They each affect the other's life without ever meeting. Three Colors is a critically acclaimed trilogy of films named after a color symbolizing a different theme; Blue (1993) representing liberty, White (1994) representing equality, and Red (1994) representing fraternity.
Kieslowski's work has generally garnered critical praise. Amator won first prize at the Moscow film festival in 1979 without the judges realizing that it was an indictment of Socialist governments. The final installment in the trilogy The Three Colors: Red, was favored to win a Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1995, but lost to Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. Critics note Kieslowski as a ruthless editor and praise his precisely filmed scenes and attention to minute detail. Phil Cavendish said of Decalogue, "There has been some pretty brutal pruning between the conception and final product, much of which created the economy and precision for which the films have been so highly praised." Many reviewers refer to Kieslowski as a humanist because of his interest in the individual, his sympathy for his characters, and his refusal to judge his characters. Christopher Garbowski states, "All things considered, few contemporary directors can match him in allowing the viewer to enter the protagonist's realm of vision and thus sharing his or her I." Commentators are divided on the use of political themes in Kieslowski's films. Some assert that Kieslowski abandoned the political realm with Decalogue, but others feel that even his films focusing on individuals have political undertones. Some reviewers who believe Kieslowski left politics behind find his later works diminished. Geoffrey Macnab stated, "Perhaps Kieslowski is, as his supporters so ardently proclaim, the most important film-maker in Europe; but his blithe abandonment of social issues and retreat into a remote, mystical realm where personal experience is all that matters, do not augur well for the future." Kieslowski's move from the Polish to the international film scene prompted recognition of the universal themes in his work and made him an international success. Marilynne S. Mason remarks, "Starting out as an innovative, intellectual documentary filmmaker, Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski evolved into one of the great artists of the contemporary European cinema."
Z miasta Lodzi [From the City of Lodz] (documentary film) 1968...
Fabryka [Factory] (documentary film) 1971
Podstawy BHP w kopalni miedzi [The Principles of Safety and Hygiene in a Copper Mine] (documentary film) 1972
Przejscie podziemne [with Ireneusz Iredynski; Pedestrian Subway] (documentary film) 1973
Personel [Personnel] (documentary film) 1975
Spokoj [Calm Before the Storm; also known as Peace] (film) 1976
Siedem kobiet w roznym wieku [Seven Women of Different Ages] (documentary film) 1978
Amator [Camera Buff] (film) 1979
Przypadek [Blind Chance] (film) 1982
Bez konca [with Krzysztof Piesiewicz; No End] (film) 1985
†Dekalog [with Piesiewicz; Decalogue; also know as The Ten Commamandments] (film) 1988
‡Kroti film o zabijaniu [with Piesiewicz; A Short Film about Killing] (film) 1988
‡Kroti film o milosci [with Piesiewicz; A Short Film about Love] (film) 1988.
Podwojne zycie Weroniki [with Piesiewicz; The Double Life of Veronique] (film) 1991
∗∗Trzy kolory: Niebieski [with Piesiewicz; Blue] (film) 1993
∗∗Trzy kolory: Czerwony [with Piesiewicz; Red] (film) 1994
∗∗Trzy kolory: Bialy [with Piesiewicz; White] (film) 1994
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SOURCE: "Frozen Assets: Interviews on Polish Cinema," in Sight and Sound, Vol. 50, No. 2, Spring, 1981, pp. 86-91.
[In the following excerpt, Kieslowski discusses the impact of political changes on the film industry in Poland and how politics have affected his own work.]
Living in Poland now is to participate in momentous events which are, at the time of writing (January 1981), still in turmoil, although not quite the chaotic mess that the Soviet bloc media would have the West believe. The independent trade organisation (union is not an adequate term to describe a network of combined worker and intellectual groups which now conservatively account for ten million people) Solidarity exerts a discipline over its affiliated sub-sections which gives a coherent structure and aim to a nation which has progressively declined in moral hope and social cohesion since the first defeat of working class aspiration to democratic representation in 1956.
Since that year (the events of which are given as major reference points in Wajda's Man of Marble), there have been three further clashes with state power—in 1968, 1970 and 1976. The last date saw the formation of several dissident groups, notably KOR, which formed a new pattern of close links between intellectual opposition and working class frustration with severe economic depression. With the toppling of Gierek from power in late...
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SOURCE: "Exile and Identity: Kieslowski and His Contemporaries," in Before the Wall Came Down: Soviet and East European Filmmakers Working in the West, edited by Graham Petrie and Ruth Dwyer, University Press of America, 1990, pp. 103-14.
[In the following essay, Coates discusses the cohesiveness of Kieslowski's work and the fusion of Eastern and Western influences in his films.]
How the West was Won is the title of the East European producer's unrealized dream film: a horn of plenty discharging hard currency into the coffers of its debt-ridden country of origin. At a time when hopeful speculation is resurrecting the specter of Central Europe, however, it may be worthwhile asking just where the West is. As a purely Utopian image in the East European consciousness, it may be located across the Atlantic; as a place of relative material well-being one may visit and work in, it may—for the Polish actor or actress—go by the provisional name of Hungary. (Or—if one is Wajda or Zanussi—West Germany or France.) Does the West exist wherever a Westerner is present? Such questions are prompted by the problematic nature of borders, which are far more prone to shift at the behest of the world market than their apparent post-Yalta fixity would lead one to suspect. As the world economy becomes increasingly tight-knit, it is ever harder to determine just where the East and West lie. The growing frequency...
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SOURCE; "Kieslowski's Decalogue," in Sight and Sound, Vol. 59, No. 3, Summer, 1990, pp. 162-65.
[In the following interview, Kieslowski discusses the development and filming of his series of films, Decalogue.]
With his latest films based on the Decalogue, the Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski seems to have pulled off two difficult feats in one stroke. Not only has the ten-part series established him as a world-class talent, but it has also aroused a new interest in the Ten Commandments.
Certainly, the critics who first saw the cycle at the Venice festival last year were as eager to praise as they were frantic to discover the relevant commandments (an Italian communist was caught by Kieslowski himself reduced to ringing the Vatican at three o'clock in the morning from a public phone booth). Since then, success has followed success: A Short Film About Killing (Decalogue Five) voted Best European Film of 1988; Part Six, A Short Film About Love, described as 'perfection' by one reviewer, and the whole cycle given wide publicity and a primetime BBC2 Sunday slot after its launch on 6 May in Britain.
With twenty years in film behind him, Kieslowski is mildly bemused by this response. In a wry moment, loyally chainsmoking Polish cigarettes, he will put it down to snobbery, the 'fad for things from the East' which has swept through Western Europe in...
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SOURCE: "The Cave," in Art Forum, Vol. XXIV, No. 4, December, 1990, pp. 22-3.
[In the following review, Tarantino discusses Kieslowski's use of character, setting, and plot in Decalogue.]
Krzysztof Kieslowski's The Decalogue, 1988, is a series of investigations into the question of choice, both esthetic and moral. The director and his scriptwriter, Krzysztof Piesiewicz, based this series often one-hour television dramas on the Ten Commandments. (Two of the films, A Short Film about Killing and A Short Film about Love, have been expanded to feature length for cinema release.) The works have a number of constants: each is based on one of the commandments, some more directly than others. Each takes place in a bunkerlike apartment complex in Warsaw. And characters reappear from one film to another, sometimes as protagonists, sometimes merely as figures glimpsed in elevators or hallways.
Decalogue 1: Thou Shalt Worship One God, undermines the notions of certainty and blind acceptance called for in the commandment. The protagonist, Krzysztof, is a college professor of linguistics who is as scientific in his private life as in his profession. The first scene finds his 11-year-old son, Pavel—Krzysztof is a single parent—solving a child's riddle by putting the variables on his computer. (The boy can even lock the door and turn the water on with a computer...
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SOURCE: "A Great Polish Film-Maker: Krzysztof Kieslowski," in The Durham University Journal, Vol. LXXXV, No. 1, January, 1993, pp. 131-35.
[In the following essay, Millar praises Kieslowski's Dekalog and La Double Vie de Véronique as examples of Kieslowski's greatness as a filmmaker.]
Krzysztof Kieslowski is not interested in Sin. In fact, he is not a 'theological' director at all, even though he is best known for his TV series Dekalog (The Ten Commandments) and its spin-off cinema films, A Short Film about Killing (i.e. the fifth commandment, Catholic numbering) and A Short Film about Love (sixth commandment), both 1988. But then who is a theological director? John Ford, with his Irish Catholic sentiments and Protestant hymns? Obviously not. The austere Robert Bresson? Bresson wisely cut out the theological verbiage when filming Bernanos' Diary of a Country Priest, keeping the drama—and the diary itself. (Bernanos' late Mouchette gave him less resistance a decade and a half later.) No, blasphemous Buñuel is the only convincing candidate—he used to read medieval theology for fun.
The films of Graham Greene's novels and stories (since Greene hid his real theological interests beneath a veil of convert's pseudo-theology) manage to lose the real stuff, keeping if anything only the pseudo; though there is a sense of evil in The...
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SOURCE: A review of Trois Couleurs: Bleu (Three Colors: Blue), in Sight and Sound, Vol. 3, No. 11, November, 1993, pp. 54-5.
[In the following review, Macnab asserts, "Perhaps Kieslowski is, as his supporters so ardently proclaim, the most important film-maker in Europe; but his blithe abandonment of social issues and retreat into a remote, mystical realm where personal experience is all that matters [in his Trois Couleurs: Bleu], do not augur well for the future."]
[In Kieslowski's Trois Couleurs: Bleu,] Julie, a young French woman, loses her husband and child when the family car careens out of control on a remote country lane and crashes into a tree. Badly injured in the accident, she tries to commit suicide on waking up in a hospital bed, but her attempt is thwarted by a vigilant nurse.
At the time of his death, Julie's husband Patrice, a famous composer, had been working on a piece of music to be performed simultaneously by 12 different orchestras in all the EC capitals. While Julie is convalescing in the hospital, a journalist visits her, asking if she will finish the piece herself, and enquiring whether the rumour is true that she wrote all of Patrice's music; Julie refuses to answer. Discharged from the hospital, she returns to the family château, sorts through her belongings, and instructs her lawyer to sell everything. She even destroys Patrice's remaining...
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SOURCE: "Through the Lense of a Polish Filmmaker," in The Christian Science Monitor, March 25, 1994, p. 15.
[In the following review, Mason recommends Kieslowski on Kieslowski "for film buffs, students, or anyone interested in the cultural history of Eastern Europe."]
Starting out as an innovative, intellectual documentary filmmaker, Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski evolved into one of the great artists of the contemporary European cinema.
Kieslowski gained international prominence with his Decalogue, a series of 10 films based on the Ten Commandments made for Polish television. His The Double Life of Véronique made in France with French actors catapulted him to critical acclaim. Three Colours is a new series of films based on the colors of the French flag—blue, white, and red—symbolic of liberty, equality, fraternity. The first of these films, Blue, is an elegant, fully realized work of art—a mysterious investigation of the inner life of its heroine and a meditation on the nature of liberty.
Kieslowski is frequently cryptic in his responses to journalists, refusing to respond to questions about the meaning of a particular film. But in the fascinating new book, Kieslowski on Kieslowski, he reveals a little more of himself, and while his pessimism sometimes surfaces in odd, self-deprecating ways, the artist's warmth...
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SOURCE: "Slightly Excited," in Sight and Sound, Vol. 4, No. 5, May, 1994, p. 35.
[In the following review, Kemp asserts that more can be learned of Kieslowski from watching his films than from the book Kieslowski on Kieslowski.]
Faber's 'Directors on Themselves' series, of which some half-dozen volumes have so far appeared, suffers from two inbuilt drawbacks. The obvious one is that some directors don't have anything interesting to say about their own films, in which case—as with David Thompson's valiant editing job on Barry Levinson—the sound of some fairly desperate barrel-scraping can be heard. The other is that, even given an articulate and perceptive subject, there's often a curiously airless feel to the books: the need for some keen critical side-winds, for windows to open up an alternative vista or two, makes itself insidiously felt.
Such ventilation can be achieved by turning the book into an extended dialogue between film-maker and critic, as Philip French did with his excellent Malle on Malle. Danusia Stok likewise bases her book on long interviews with the director, but she has cut out her own questions, stitching what remains into a seamless Kieslowski monologue that traces his life chronologically. In addition, Stock tells us, excerpts from articles written by Kieslowski for a Swiss magazine have been "worked into the text"—a phrase which arouses the same...
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SOURCE: "Glowing in the Dark," in Sight and Sound, Vol. 4, No. 6, June, 1994, pp. 8-10.
[In the following interview, Kieslowski discusses influences on his filmmaking, including themes, financing, and the political situation in Poland.]
Hong Kong: 25 March—Dinner at the Pacific Club with Krzysztof Kieslowski, hosted by Golden Harvest, the local distributor of the Three Colours trilogy. Kieslowski is in town for the Hong Kong Film Festival (which opens with Blue and closes with White) and has spent the day giving interviews to promote the upcoming releases of the films. His producer Marin Karmitz, the ex-radical who runs the Paris production/distribution company MK2, has faxed ahead with precise instructions for prospective interviewers: "No stupid questions."
Kieslowski's left forearm is in plaster ("A skiing accident—my first vacation in three years, and this happened on the second day"), but he is in high spirits. He is flying on to Tokyo next, and dinner-table talk about Japan prompts him to tell a very funny story about his first visit to the country years ago. His over-solicitous hosts, he recalls, kept asking him what he wanted to do in Japan, and he finally came up with two absurd requests to keep them quiet. But they took him seriously, and so he found himself roaring out of Tokyo on the latest 750cc Honda motorcycle … and then taken on a mysterious...
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SOURCE: "To Save the World: Kieslowski's Three Colors Trilogy," in Film Comment, Vol. 30, No. 6, November-December, 1994, pp. 10, 12-13, 15-18, 20.
[In the following essay, Kehr traces the movement from isolation and solitude to acceptance of community and interdependence in Kieslowski's Three Colors.]
When Red, the concluding episode in Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colors trilogy, was screened at this May's Cannes Film Festival, the 53-year-old Polish filmmaker took the opportunity to announce his retirement. He now had enough money to keep himself in cigarettes, he told a group of American journalists through an interpreter, and rather than subject himself to the strain and bother of making films, he would prefer to sit quietly in a room by himself and smoke. Perhaps he would watch a little television, but never, never would he go to the movies.
Like most of Kieslowski's public statements, his proclamation of retirement should be taken with a grain of salt. He has long hidden his creative passions behind a mask of sardonic detachment—as did Alfred Hitchcock, a director with whom Kieslowski's career intersects in a number of interesting ways. But while it's hard to imagine an artist of Kieslowski's gifts retiring at the height of his powers, there is something in the image he uses that rings true. Retired or not, Kieslowski will always be that solitary smoker, an...
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SOURCE: "Seen and Unseen Encounters: Kieslowski's Red," in Chicago Reader, December 16, 1994, pp. 47-53.
[In the following essay, Rosenbaum discusses the possibility of resurrection in Kieslowski's Three Colors trilogy, especially Red.]
A film of mystical correspondences, Red triumphantly concludes and summarizes Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colors trilogy by contriving to tell us three stories about three separate characters all at once; yet it does this with such effortless musical grace that we may not even be aware of it at first. Two of the characters, both of them students, are neighbors in Geneva who never meet—a model named Valentine (Irene Jacob) and a law student named Auguste (Jean-Pierre Lorit)—and the third is a retired judge (Jean-Louis Trintignant) who lives in a Geneva suburb and whom Valentine meets quite by chance, when she accidentally runs over his German shepherd.
Eventually we discover that Auguste and the retired judge are younger and older versions of the same man (neither of them meets, either). Another set of correspondences is provided when, in separate scenes, Valentine and the judge are able to divine important facts about each other: he correctly guesses that she has a younger brother driven to drug addiction by the discovery that his mother's husband is not his real father; she correctly guesses that he was once...
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SOURCE: "Kieslowski's Seeing I/Eye," in The Polish Review, Vol. XL, No. 1, 1995, pp. 53-60.
[In the following essay, Garbowski discusses Kieslowski's use of point of view in his films.]
There is a scene in Bleu [Blue], the opening film of Krzysztof Kieslowski's trilogy Trois couleurs [Three Colors], which shows the director's mastery of unspoken dialogue with the viewer. The film's heroine Julie is sitting on a Parisian park bench facing the street. Following a whiteout, we see a bent elderly lady on the sidewalk slowly walking toward a bin with a plastic bottle in hand. She can barely reach the opening in order to dispose of the bottle. The viewer has been cued previously by the "blue-outs" that the white-out has to do with the three colours of the trilogy.
The problem dealt with in this vignette is "equality," or rather lack of it. On the one hand, we have the young woman basking in the sun who in spite of her tragedy has the future before her; on the other, the elderly woman who is nearing the end of her life. Even the time in which the latter was born seems wrong: her generation suffered from much poorer nutrition as evidenced in her case by her stunted growth. The present time also mistreats this older woman in many subtle ways; contemporary ergonomists have not bothered to take her size into account when placing the holes in the garbage disposal containers. Yet the...
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SOURCE: "'The Political' in the Films of Andrzej Wajda and Krzysztof Kieslowski," in Cinema Journal, Vol. 34, No. 2, Winter, 1995, pp. 37-50.
[In the following essay, Falkowska compares and contrasts the presentation of and audience reaction to the political content in Andrzej Wajda's Man of Iron and Kieslowski's Without End and A Short Film about Killing.]
Films of Polish directors are frequently called political or are said to reveal political content. This essay constitutes an introductory proposal for a new project exploring issues which I have been working on for some time. The project deals with the questions of politics in Eastern European film and how they manifest themselves in works by Polish film directors. For the purposes of this study, I have chosen to focus on Andrzej Wajda's Man of Iron along with Krzysztof Kieslowski's Without End and A Short Film about Killing, works which can be considered representative of the Polish political film.
Before concentrating on the films of the two directors, I would like to devote some attention to the very concept "political," which, in general, is being applied indiscriminately to all levels of film analysis. On the one hand, film theoreticians describe films as "political" or as implying and revealing political content. On the other hand, analysis of the formal aspects of film talk about political...
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SOURCE: "Auteur Tricolore," in Art Forum, Vol. XXXIV, No. 9, May, 1996, pp. 21, 118.
[In the following essay, Brown traces Kieslowski's career from documentaries to feature films and analyzes the director's relationship to Poland.]
When Krzysztof Kieslowski retired from cinema at 52 "to sit on a bench in Poland," Cannes reporters seemed almost more shocked at the Poland part. (Why, when he could be sitting in Paris?) Two years later he left us wondering why anyone with his resources would have heart surgery in Warsaw. Few in the West understood the man's ferocious Polish complex. Because he came to the attention of most film audiences only in the final phase of his career, while working in France, we barely grasped the extraordinary integrity of his life or his project, and even critics who praised the four French coproductions—The Double Life of Véronique and the Three Colors trilogy—groped to put these intimate domestic dramas in context. Arriving the same year (1994) as Pulp Fiction, Red was even attacked as fraudulent. I doubt that anyone familiar with the director's entire career would make such a charge.
Kieslowski was born into World War II Poland. The German occupation launched the Kieslowski family on a series of relocations. After the war, his father, suffering from TB, moved from sanitarium to sanitarium while his mother supported the family...
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SOURCE: "Working with Kieslowski," in Sight and Sound, Vol. 6, No. 5, May, 1996, pp. 16, 18.
[In the following essay, Macnab and Darke talk to three former colleagues of Kieslowski about working with the director.]
We were in the same school. Krzysztof was one year ahead of me. We didn't really work at school together because the system was to team up directors with cameramen who were one year up. It was incredibly difficult to get into Lodz film school. Exactly like Krzysztof, I applied three times before I was accepted. There were at least 25 candidates for each place. And usually half the places were taken up by people who had some kind of leverage, sons of ministers or whatever. It was very fashionable to be in the film school. There were a lot of people posing as filmmakers. I first really met Krzysztof just after school, when I went to work in the documentary film studio in Warsaw.
I met him on a professional basis because he was doing the film, Factory. I was assigned to the cameraman photographing the film. It was very instructive. This cameraman was very peculiar. He was working as if he was a wildlife photographer but looking for people instead of animals—he was just hunting for faces. He and Krzysztof were incredibly good at observing people. Krzysztof, even then, was somebody with a very specific idea.
Documentaries then were quite different from...
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SOURCE: "In Memory," in Sight and Sound, Vol. 6, No. 8, August, 1996, p. 69.
[In the following essay, Pope asserts that Kieslowski's Three Colors: Blue "tells how, as they say, life goes on, and while you are alive you have no choice but to be part of it."]
We were there to choose Best Picture: David Leland, Harry Hook, Sally Hibbin, Mike Figgis, Simon Relph and me. Stephen Frears was late. When he finally arrived, it was quite an entry. "BAFTA owes me £7.50," he bellowed, slinging a seat stub across the table at Chairman Relph. "I paid … paid to see Forrest Gump." The message was clear; no one disagreed. Forrest Gump was no Best Picture.
One film disposed of. That left three others: Four Weddings and a Funeral, Pulp Fiction and Three Colours: Red. No contest, to my mind. Wonderfully enjoyable though the other two were, the prize had to go to Three Colours: Red. Kieslowski was so masterfully in control of his resources: the script, actors, design, composition and music merging seamlessly to portray his unique moral and human landscape. A truly great film. I thought, that spoke to the heart and mind.
But there was a powerful lobby for Pulp Fiction and even more formidable for Four Weddings and a Funeral. The argument went something like this. "This is a terrific achievement." (No quibble with that.) "It's...
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SOURCE: "The Sense of an Ending: Reflections on Kieslowski's Trilogy," in Film Quarterly, Vol. 50, No. 2, Winter, 1996–97, pp. 19-26.
[In the following essay, Coates analyzes the misconceptions revolving around Kieslowski's films.]
Krzysztof Kieslowski's films have long resisted categorization. For the author of this piece, such Polish features as Camera Buff, Blind Chance, and No End had a paradoxical, teasing ability to be political without endorsing political melodramas, without dissipating the air of reality by dividing Polish society into angelic dissidents and demonic Party members, as the New Wave Polish poet and essayist Adam Zagajewski complained most Solidarity sympathizers did. This ability took them beyond "the cinema of moral unrest," a term that was nevertheless piquantly apposite for his work. Even The Scar, his 1976 debut feature so often termed "political," seemed rather to fuse politics with a fascinated tragic character study of a manager's fatal flaw—his urge to fix lives. The slightly misshapen quality of the film's screenplay surely reflects its groping beyond ready-made schemas of understanding. Pungently independent, corrosive of such schemas, Kieslowski's works almost court misunderstanding.
Subsequent screenplays may have been more polished, but the misunderstandings have lingered, and not just in Poland; in 1994, Tony Rayns wondered...
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SOURCE: "A Testament to Krzysztof Kieslowski," in Film Criticism, Vol. XXI, No. 2, Winter, 1996–97, pp. 59-61.
[In the following essay, the Perlmutters discuss the bio-documentary on Kieslowski's life, Krzysztof Kieslowski—I'm So-So by Krzysztof Wierzbicki.]
Very much like a fortuitous event in one of his own movies, Krzysztof Kieslowski, the renowned director, consented to be in a bio-documentary shortly before his death. Krzysztof Kieslowski—I'm So-So was made in Denmark by Krzysztof Wierzbicki, who had worked with Kieslowski as his assistant director on The Scar and Camera Buff.
Equally fortuitous was Wierzbicki's decision to start the film with a group of professionals analyzing aspects of Kieslowski's personality. Their explanations are like eerie premonitions of Kieslowski's sudden death during heart surgery a few months after the film was shot. A cardiologist held up a set of x-rays and suggested that circulatory problems were inevitable judging from the patient's drinking habits, chain-smoking, and pressured life. As if already a memorial, a graphologist delineated the filmmaker's fine aesthetic sense, while a clairvoyant, acknowledging Kieslowski's telekinetic propensities, remarked on his ability to portray the inner lives of several people at once. Another professional added that the director sometimes seemed to assume the role of God—a...
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SOURCE: "An Affectionate Look at Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colors," in Film Comment, Vol. 33, No. 2, March-April, 1997, pp. 46-8.
[In the followíng essay, Insdorf asserts that "White illustrates how Kieslowski is a cinematic 'poet,' a Polish artist whose rich audiovisual vocabulary expresses a profound vision of human fallibility, as well as transcendence."]
Three Colors: White is one of Krzysztof Kieslowski's deceptively simplest films. Of the trilogy, it has received the least critical attention, overshadowed by Blue and Red. But White illustrates how Kieslowski is a cinematic "poet," a Polish artist whose rich audiovisual vocabulary expresses a profound vision of human fallibility, as well as transcendence. Ironic but tender, his style includes haunting images that suggest spiritual forces at work in the perceptual world. Co-written with Krzysztof Piesewicz, White is the second part of the trilogy, which Kieslowski said derives from the colors of the French flag—the concepts of liberty, equality, and fraternity. White, for which he won the Best Director Prize at the Berlin Film Festival, corresponds to equality—but in the ironic sense of "getting even," or revenge. Of all three films, it is the lightest and most humorous because of its picaresque quality; nevertheless, the tone is that of very dark comedy.
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SOURCE: "Testament of the Father: Kieslowski's The Decalogue," in Film Criticism, Vol. XXII, No. 2, Winter, 1997–98, pp. 51-65.
[In the following essay, Perlmutter asserts, "Although glimmers of hope and oxymoronic moments of a kind of desperate joy temper the suffering throughout the ten films [of Kieslowski's The Decalogue], their message is clear—the Ten Commandments exist in our consciousness but are most often beyond our realization."]
The Decalogue marks an important midpoint in Krzysztof Kieslowski's career. As a kind of serialized melodrama, it consolidates his move from documentary to fiction after he first explored the disadvantages of the documentary form (the "truth-telling" genre) in his early fiction film, Camera Buff. The ten episodes are also building-blocks for the four feature films—The Double Life of Veronique and Blue, White and Red—that follow. Similar narrative situations are fleshed out; character types and visual forms persist as thematic moral connotations deepen.
Although with The Decalogue, Kieslowski ostensibly abandoned political issues for more universal moral concerns, in a Kieslowski film, the personal cannot be severed from the political. The struggles of his characters with identity, career options and parental responsibilities, emanate from Kieslowski's ambivalence towards his own...
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Combs, Richard. "The Game-Player of Lodz." Times Literary Supplement, No. 4782 (25 November 1994): 16-17.
Discusses Kieslowki's career and asserts that "many of Kieslowski's artistic decisions amount to, not escapism exactly, but an almost pedantic need to define himself, to insist on not being where he doesn't want to be, on not serving a purpose he doesn't want to serve."
Iordanova, Dina. Review of Kieslowski on Kieslowski, by Krzysztof Kieslowski. Slavic Review 54, No. 1 (Spring 1995): 168-69.
Lauds Kieslowski on Kieslowski for "reflect[ing] the important presence of the director in humanity's discourse in these times of uncertainty and anxiety."
Romney, Jonathan. Review of La Double Vie de Véronique, by Krzysztof Kieslowski. Sight and Sound 1, No. 11 (March 1992): 42-3.
Discusses the complexity and paradoxes of Kieslowski's La Double Vie de Véronique.
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