Krzysztof Kieślowski: Documentaries & Shorts 1966-1988

Monday 13th January 2017 will mark 21 years since the passing of one of cinema’s greatest film-makers – and one who deserved that tag without question. Krzysztof Kieślowski played the rich, unforgettable game of human chance in his motion picture, telling stories of the ordinary people that turned out to be effortlessly extraordinary. But the Polish creative force would likely be the first to disagree that his filmography was consistently remarkable, he was open about that longing to capture on film what formed in his mind and heart. We, loving his films unconditionally, would in turn disagree with him, and to say, that not many can capture such wonder on film so intricately and true. The Krzysztof Kieślowski Weekend (Friday March 10th – Tuesday March 14th) will throw at your some of his very finest works, and there are a lot so be patient. Before we delve into the obvious latter masterpieces of his career and life, I take you way, way back now to his starting grounds, the blueprints for excellence, with his short films, fiction and documentary. See all 7 of these I plucked from his movie catalog, and seek out others too.

Tramway – Tramwaj (1966)

Guy standing amidst dancing people boards a tram on a cold, lonely night. Seeing a girl sitting alone, he is intrigued. though his watching her may these days constitute creepy, this is not. A fine five minute homage to passive flirting and missed opportunity. His taps on the window it is too little too late. We’ve all been there.

The Office  – Urząd (1966)

It appears the the discourse of office customer facing protocol has not changed that much in fifty years, be it Poland, England, United States. Impartial administration against the people perhaps victims of the state. A rapid, intriguing account of such affairs.

Concert of Requests – Koncert życzeń (1967)

Made while Kieślowski was still studying (though he would no doubt tell you we never really stop learning), Concert of Requests crosses the paths of a bunch of rowdy, joyous people on bus, and a young couple leaving their camping trip on a motorcycle. This social collisions has its compellingly unusual and tense moments.

The Photograph – Zdjęcie (1968)

The photograph that opens the film and gives it its title is of two boys holding guns. They are not soldiers, but this stems from the freedom of Warsaw, and Kieślowski is keen to find out more about their lives and what happened.

Refrain – Refren (1972)

Communism and bureaucracy not for the first time rear their political and social heads in Kieślowski narrative. In this documentary short we witness discussions of such matters in a Warsaw funeral parlor, and their relevance even after a person’s passing.

Seven Women of Different Ages – Siedem kobiet w roznym wieku (1978)

The dance of ballet is now the subject of Kieślowski’s seven days depiction of girls and women. Or rather ballet is the platform for the filmmaker’s vision on action and opportunity (years later to be literally attributed to Valentine in Three Colors Red) – he is teaching us to dance the rhythm of simplistic, passionate story-telling. The varying life moments portrayed, branched via females of differing ages of course, devote detail to practice, performance, to watch, and to learn, expressions of satisfaction, gasping for breath, all uniformly show layers of the human spirit.

Talking Heads – Gadające glowy (1980)

Asking three basic questions to random people of varying ages, gender, soon becomes a rather magnetic viewing as with each talking head we visit the birth year in reverse order, thus collecting the honest answers as the participants get older. Who are you? When were you born? What is important for you? The complexity and humanity that derives from such provoking questions is both surprising and comforting, in fact it is pure magic for the most part as we listen to a baby of one year right through to a woman of one hundred years – her raised eyebrows of inevitability is a real heart-breaker.

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