Krzysztof Kieślowski: Films & TV 1975-1989

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Krzysztof Kieślowski would return to television a decade after Personnel (1975) with a seminal, stunning Dekalog, the Polish series of 10 one-hour episodes (binge it, I implore you), updating the Ten Commandments to modern era stories. Each segment is crammed with philosophy, politics, sociology, morality, human language – hell, this ought to be on the education syllabus as mandatory. Expanding two of the episodes, Kieślowski made two feature films, A Short Film About Killing and A Short Film About Love, both released in 1988, so with Dekalog, making this one of the most prolific and successful ventures by any filmmaker, any year. Kieślowski really demonstrated a bolder hunger with his incredible work in the late 80s, staying true to Polish culture, changing times (to which his work could be partly attributed to), social climate on home soil prior to his exploits with the Three Colors trilogy in France and Switzerland (though White saw him return to Poland). Before the 90s were even upon us, those twelve chunks of greatness were radical, moving, haunting, meaningful, ambitious – thou shalt not miss these.

Rather than going full orbit with the classics, I wanted to shine a big, bright torch on two of Kieślowski’s motion pictures you likely haven’t seen – but should. Beyond much of his prior accomplishments like The Scar (Blizna), The Calm (Spokój), both 1976, Camera Buff (Amator), 1979, and Short Working Day (Krótki dzień pracy), 1981, the filmmaker got wider acclaim still internationally (and rightly so) with No End (1985), and Blind Chance (1987).

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No End (Bez końca), 1985, saw Krzysztof Kieślowski evolve even further with his intricate, immersing fiction films, this time showing how people are connected, and even where they may end up. Kieślowski explores a kind of grief and bewildering realism, an emotional journey, which the filmmaker takes us on whether there’s a conventional conclusion or not. An absorbing drama, the partnership with co-screenwriter Krzysztof Piesiewicz is really paying off (and will get even better).

Frowning, dazed Grazyna Szapolowskar takes center stage as Urszula, who loses her husband, Antek, and gets stuck in a static mourning for him. The death of the husband represents a lingering loss, spoken of by Urszula as if he still walks the Earth. The departed in Kieślowski’s movies often play an integral part, and this is certainly no exception. No End places mementos before the eye, catch them if you can, but they often return to you later anyway. Kieślowski loves to come full circle. This review alone echoes some of the divine tools that he would later utilize with the Three Colors trilogy, the coffee cup fascination (Blue), talk of smuggling in a case (White),  and the sub-plot featuring an almost retired judge (Red) are just three examples.

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Blind Chance (Przypadek) was not released in Poland until 1987, even though production was complete way back in 1981, a liberal period for the Soviet-occupied Poland. However political or social, Kieślowski represents his country’s upheavels and cultural progresss with his narratives. Blind Chance rings heavy in his favored themes of fate, chance, coincidences – a kind of alternate realities study so well integrated into a story (or strands thereof) that the accomplished execution speaks for itself.

Set in the 1970s, out protagonist is Witek (a frenetic, terrific performance from Boguslaw Linda), a medical student in the center of three stories. I say three stories, Blind Chance delves into the choices, the turn of events, that can result from merely nudging into someone holding a coffee or not. Three times we witness Witek dashing for that train, desperately reaching out for the handle, and each time experience the notion of “what if”, and how life can deal you such a different life from the smallest of moments. Kieślowski’s final hand though is a real sucker punch to the gut, you have no option yourself than to ponder on his influence long after the film is over.

Follow the Anniversary Event here: #KrzysztofKieslowskiWeekend

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