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Present throughout his oeuvre, he asks and attempts to answer 'How should one

live?'. In an interview Kielowski said, 'Everyone wants to change the world

whenever they make the effort to do something. I don't think I ever believed the
world could be changed in the literal sense of the phrase. I thought the world could
be described'.
his later works, for which he is most remembered lack specific cultural, political or
social detail. He showed reality through the prism of micro-worlds, places that were
seemingly normal, encountered in everyday life which create the appropriate
context for the entire sphere of feelings, intuitions, dreams and superstitions that
constitute the inner life of every human to be considered as the primary subject of
interest. His imagery, the slow camera movements that lead viewers' eyes from
object to object, shots in which minute details draw the viewers' gaze are calculated
to draw attention to objects vested with symbolic meaning.
He used light and shadow to explore the truth about man. [...] He explored from the
darkness the substantial matter of our world -- the matter of humanity. While some
artists presented the drama of Polish hope, and the others guarded the memory of
Polish suffering or considered the question of power and bread -- Kielowski went
further and deeper and displayed a flaw inside the human being. While other artists
mediated the meeting of people with the world -- he mediated the man's meeting
with himself. [...] he showed people that within their reach there exists a power by
means of which they can achieve harmony with themselves.
In the 1970s, the philosophical questions he used to ask were read as political, and
in the '80s and '90s -- as religious ones. Nevertheless, his movies could not be
enclosed in such interpretations since there are no unequivocal answers within
them.(20) After all, he presented the world "lacking idea on itself."(21)

Kielowski died unexpectedly in March, 1996

Krzysztof Kieslowski was born in Warsaw on June 27, 1941. Probably the best known
Polish Film Director of the last two decades, Krzysztof Kieslowski began by making
documentaries.(His first film was a short documentary for television, THE
TRAM(1966), directed while still at the Lodz State Theatrical and Film College.) These
films concentrated on aspects of Polish life, culture, and political conditions under the
then Communist Party. Indeed it was these conditions which helped spark the
Solidarity movement which ultimately forced the Party to relinquish power by way of
new general elections.

What I shoot isn't really the story -- the footage just contains the elements that will
make up the story.
While shooting, details which weren't in the script are often thrown in. And during
the editing process a lot
is cut out.

KK: I like chance meetings - life is full of them. Everyday, without realizing it, I pass
people whom I
should know. At this moment, in this cafe, we're sitting next to strangers. Everyone
will get up, leave, and
go on their own way. And they'll never meet again. And if they do, they won't realize
that it's not for the
first time.

1. Dokumentarci

It is often forgotten that Kielowski, usually known for his metaphysical fiction,
started his film career as a documentarist.

Both his documentaries and features do not fight the system. Rather, like the factory
director of his feature The Scar, the former factory director of his documentary I
Don't Know, the protagonist of the documentary The Bricklayer or the doctors in
the documentary The Hospital, they simply want to do a good job. This desire to do
a good job clashes with a system that does not like that sort of working.
Kielowski's protagonists thus constantly engage in battle over the simplest things
(The Hospital, Before the Rally) and either prove capable of realizing their passions
or are destroyed in the process of pursuing them (Curriculum Vitae, I Don't Know).
The desire to settle down to a peaceful life in some niche (the feature The Calm, the
documentary First Love) proves just as difficult to realise. Kielowski's protagonists
are forced to take sides (Personnel, I Don't Know, Camera Buff) and to make
difficult political and life choices.

Looking at the Polish everyday life in the 1970s, Kieslowski avoided great and
pretentious phrases, well-known personalities and national myths. He simply
showed what was important for common people as well as for himself. Critics
and audience appreciated his early films because their veracity and because
they reflected the director's concerns as a man without pretending to be an
artist, creator, moralizer or teacher. He gave viewers opportunities to ask
themselves: How should I live?

However, Kieslowski's documentaries rarely managed to reach a wide range of

viewers since politicians and censors did not like their conclusions.

In a documentary film on himself, I'm So-So, Kielowski states that his early films
were made in order to get "a common portrait of our mental condition". The filmic
portrait of working-class d belongs to a group of works that, like the
earlier Urzd (The Office, 1966), paint the picture of communist Poland. Films such
as Fabryka (Factory, 1970), Refren (Refrain, 1972), Robotnicy '71: nic o nas bez
nas (Workers '71: Nothing About Us Without Us, 1972) and later, Szpital (Hospital,
1976) and Gadjce gowy (Talking Heads, 1980), focus on different institutions and
see them as reflections of the bigger issue the communist state. They also
introduce the "collective hero." For example, the working class in Workers '71 and
medical practitioners in Hospital, although dealing with everyday struggle and
hardships, reveal the hopes and aspirations of different social strata of Poles.
As film scholar Paul Coates puts it, 'Kieslowskis most frequent solution was the
serial alignment of voices expressing the same, or cognate feelings, individual
instances massing into the statistically significant proportion that validates
generalisation.' Many of his films are highly-edited montages collating people and
ideas in provocative ways.
The subtlety and density of his point of view as well as the way in which he
communicated it with the spectator despite the barriers of censorship make
Kielowski a major post-war documentary filmmaker.

Like several other Kielowski's documentaries, Factory clearly serves as a metaphor

of communist Poland. Made in 1970 the year of violent workers' strikes in the
Baltic ports, the film juxtaposes images of long managerial meetings and assembly-
line workers at work at the Ursus tractor plant. Kielowski crosscuts close-up shots of
engineers and party functionaries with primarily long- and medium-shots of factory
life. The dynamic factory sequences, portraying workers during their daily routines
almost in the manner reminiscent of socialist realism, contrast the endless talk
("talking heads") of the male-only factory administrators who gather in a smoke-
filled conference room to discuss co-operations, production plans and supplies.

In 1976 Kielowski produced Hospital, the 1977 winner of the Festival of Short Films
in Krakw. The film deals with Warsaw orthopaedic surgeons who are portrayed
working long, 32-hour shifts. The camera follows them in the operating theatre,
admittance room and smoky offices. They are portrayed as struggling with faulty
equipment and overcoming fatigue. The film focuses on everyday hospital situations
without any voice-over comments, with the passage of time carefully indicated every

Before Kielowski started to progressively abandon documentary and political

concerns, his cinematographic work is marked by metaphysical reflections
questions about the relativism of subjective ideas.
In First Love (Pierwsza Mio, 1974), we are introduced to Romek, a 18-year-old,
and Jadwiga, who is a bit older, and pregnant. The young couple decides to get

We often see the microphone in frame, which reminds us that we are in truth being
confronted with a reality registered by a camera. Grainy images, the handheld
camera and a lack of interrelatedness are all part of the directors cinematographic
grammar. It is entirely up to the characters to transmit the narrative, so much so
that they sometimes appear to be the films only formal elements.

Kielowski's later film Dworzec (Station, 1980) portrays the atmosphere at Central
Station in Warsaw after the rush hour. It opens with the main television news at
7:30PM, providing information about the communist party leader, Edward Gierek.
The recurrent image, Orwellian in spirit, of security cameras watching people,
organises the film. In the last scene the camera moves inside the surveillance room
and presents various images of the station on multiple screens. Its political,
Orwellian touches aside, Station is chiefly admired for its attention to detail, its
portrayal of tired, almost inanimate faces, "people looking for something", the reality
that has nothing to do with the optimism of the television news. Scholars often quote
the confiscation of Station by the police, searching for a murder suspect at the
Central Station and hoping that Kielowski accidentally filmed her. As Kielowski
explains to Danusia Stok, this event, which could have jeopardised his filmed
subjects, contributed to his abandonment of documentary cinema.

Kielowski directed about twenty documentary films before switching to fiction films in
the 1980s.

2. Igrani filmovi

There is a strong continuity in Kielowskis work. It is the constant dialogue

between documentary and fiction

In an interview, Kieslowski once said, Lately it seems to me that I make films about
peoples innermost thoughts and emotions, about what they dont show to anyone.
He added, Its all more interesting in real life, but you should never film those
things in real life.

Similarly to the photographer Sebastio Salgado, towards the end of his career
Kielowski partly turns away from people and also from documentary. After
photographing the genocide in Rwanda and the famines in Africa, Salgado felt
overdosed by humans as photographic subjects. When Kielowski filmed the
brutality of the Communist regime he struggled with the same psychological
phenomenon; both men consumed human reality to the point of disgust. Contrary to
Salgado, who turned away completely from humans and started photographing
nature towards the end of his life, Kielowski continues to study human beings but
through a different path, that of fiction. This change allows him to protect himself
while continuing to create unique art works about the human condition.
Kielowskis cinema is free and addresses social and political issues with subtlety.

While the early narrative films contained many elements of social realism and
political dimension within the intangible and mystical conceits Kieslowski is known
for, the filmmakers work soon discarded many of his overly political ideas and
shifted into his unwavering purpose: exploring the metaphysical, random mysteries
and paradoxes of the universe via themes of chance, interconnectivity, identity,
destiny and more. The films had some high-concepts on paper movies about
doppelgangers, rewriting ones time and history, second chances, reaching beyond
parallel alternative universes and even death but each one had a spiritual
resonance, an emotional weight, a soulful humanism, and a dramatic texture that
made them beautifully profound and enigmatically enrapturing.

Theres arguably a before and after period in Kieslowskis work that is divided by
1985s No End. That film marked the first collaboration with screenwriter
Piesiewicz and composer Zbigniew Preisner and both men would work on every
subsequent Kieslowski picture. Arguably, Kieslowskis metaphysical sonnets of
intuitive nature from that period forward became masterful symphonies of sound,
color, and rich emotional transcendence. Interestingly enough, this new period
would center almost exclusively on ravishing female protagonists (though The
Dekalog was mixed).

3. Dekalog

The Dekalog illustrated ten stories of moral and ethical dilemmas that
various loosely intertwined characters faced. Moody and melancholic
throughout, perhaps one of the most powerful, resonating and moving
shorts is episode I, based on Thou shalt have no other gods. It centers
on a university professor who teaches his son the virtues of the
scientific methodology and philosophy above all others, but fate
intervenes tragically. The only recurring character throughout the series
is a silent, nameless figure, a perhaps celestial and Christ-like figure
who is shown observing the character in each moral tale.

While the religious and metaphysical connotations are obviously

present, The Dekalog is also an examination (and sometimes censure)
on the mental condition of Polish society during the communist regime
hence harsh gray conditions and the unbearable opaqueness of being
that floats over the films like a somber cloud.

The Decalogue series seems to be set in Polish realities. Each film takes place in
what appears to a typical, gray, gloomy, Communist-era Polish housing
development - a simplified reality of everyday life in Poland of that time. Though
the average western viewer might perceive these settings as very realistic, to Polish
viewers they seemed excessively abstract, lacking the features of everyday life, the
daily details that make this up.

4. Veronika

Kielowski did not so much resort to new subject matter, as he did modify his film
language and consciously reach for a set of different formal solutions. Critic Maria
Kornatowska notes that with The Double Life of Veronique, Kielowski began
paying close attention to visual aesthetics, carefully selecting the dominant hues of
his imagery, filming his heroines differently, highlighting and adding to their beauty
through photography that was akin to that characteristic of advertising. These
measures ultimately proved the source of the new style of his films and were drawn
from his experience as a documentary filmmaker.
He developed a desire to tell 'simple stories', stories that were clear, logically
constructed and bore no marks of struggling against the elemental force that is
reality. Ones that concerned the sphere of human emotions almost exclusively. He
freed himself of external limitations and gained the ability to follow through on
ideas like a scientist in a laboratory.

1991 The Double Life of Veronique / Podwjne ycie Weroniki (screenplay with
Krzysztof Piesiewicz) - Two identical young women, named the same and
similarly sensitive, live in parallel in two different countries. The psychological
link between them is strong, though they do not know each other and only have an
intuition of their relationship. The one living in Poland is a singer. When she dies
of overexertion during a concert, the second, living in France, abandons her efforts
to become a musician on impulse.

The Double Life Of Veronique (1991)

The realms of superstition, fortune-telling, presentiments, intuition,
dreams, and the inner life of a human beingall this is the hardest thing
to film, Kieslowski once said. Because [these themes] deal with things
you cannot name. If you do they seem trivial and stupid. Featuring a
bifurcated narrative, Veronique centers on two separate women
each played by Irene Jacob (who would win the Best Actress prize at
Cannes) raised in different countries with a mysterious bond
connecting them. Identical doppelgangers or the same
person? Weronika is a singer in Poland with a weak heart and
Veronique is a Polish music teacher. Ostensibly the same person (or
maybe not), Weronika dies of a heart attack mid-recital after seeing her
identical other half briefly in a Krakow square (ironically at a
demonstration about solidarity). Unaware of Weronikas existence,
Veronique nonetheless is struck with a deep sense of loss, isolation and
grief after her other half passes on. This death reverberates like an echo
throughout her, leading to quit her job and transform her life (themes of
manipulation, inverted worlds and freedom are all felt). Expressively
shot in intimate, melancholic close up of its protagonists with radiant
amber hues imbuing each frame The Double Life Of Veronique is
a sensual, enchanting and profoundly absorbing contemplation of
Kieslowskis singular preoccupation with the unfathomable and
enigmatic interconnectedness of human existence. The distinct musical
presence of Zbignew Preisner and the memorable gold color palette by
cinematographer Slawomir Idziak all forecast hints of what was to
come in Three Colors. Extra credit: fate and chance intervened on
Kieslowski himself as such forces helped to narrowly avoid the original
casting choice of Andie Macdowell in the role of Veronique/Weronika.

Here is a film about a feeling. Like all feelings, it is one that can hardly be
described in words, although it can be evoked in art. It is the feeling that we are
not alone, because there is more than one of us. We are connected at a level far,
far beneath thought. We have no understanding of this. It is simply a feeling that
we have.

Kieslowski's camera spends a great deal of time regarding Jacob's face. Let's not
waste any time observing how beautiful she is. What he is searching for is her
soul. Sometimes he asks her to smile, or look pensive or thoughtful, but
sometimes he simply shows her thinking. She shows herself vulnerable, romantic,
joyous, tender. She has a good face. We become invested in her introspection.

The cinematographer, Slawomir Idziak, finds a glow in Irene Jacob's pre-

Raphaelite beauty. He uses a rich palette, including insistent reds and greens that
don't "stand" for anything but have the effect of underlining the other colors. The
other color, blending with both, is golden yellow, and then there are the skin
tones. Jacob, who was 24 when the film was made, has a flawless complexion that
the camera lingers near to. Her face is a template waiting for experience to be
added. She is open to the murmurs of the aether.

1993 Three Colors: Blue / Trzy kolory: Niebieski (screenplay with Krzysztof
Piesiewicz). Julie loses her husband and little daughter in an automobile accident.
She proves incapable of finding another purpose in life; she is free and can elect to
do anything, but the blow of her family's death renders her incapable of finding the
strength to take advantage of her freedom.

There is a kind of movie in which the characters are not thinking about anything.
They are simply the instruments of the plot.
And another kind of movie in which we lean forward in our seats, trying to
penetrate the mystery of characters who are obviously thinking a great deal.
"Blue" is the second kind of film: The story of a woman whose husband dies, and
who deals with that fact in unpredictable ways.
Three Colors: Blue (1993)
Kieslowskis final troika, the Three Colors trilogy explored the
themes of the three colors represented in the French Flag, liberty,
equality, and fraternity through three, seemingly unrelated and
unconnected individuals (the filmmaker acknowledged the
pictures were French because of the funding, but would have
been the same under any nationality). For each film, Kieslowski
would use a different female protagonist and three different
cinematographers to give the films a distinctive look. In his first
chapter, Blue, arguably the most emotionally devastating of the
three, Juliette Binoche stars as Julie, and the sole survivor of a car
crash that has killed her daughter and husband, a famous
composer. Left to pick up the pieces, Julie initially doesnt
possess the will to go on, but its strong enough that she cant
even go through a suicide attempt. Attempting to live a
dissociative existence and sever ties to her past, Julie begins to
discard the possessions of her life in order to be free and begin
again save for a chandelier of blue beads owned by her daughter.
Yet the past manages to be tricky to elude and a former assistant
of her late husband turns up, interested in the condition of an
unfinished musical composition, commissioned by the
government to celebrate European unity (its strongly implied
throughout that Julie wrote or co-wrote some of this music).
Appropriately, Blue, is marked by its extraordinary score that
often arrives in evocative snatches of orchestral grandeur and the
striking sapphire color palate of cinematographer Slawomir
Idziak. Sensual, operatic and haunting, Blue is a crucial film in
this final masterwork.

1994 Three Colors: White / Trzy kolory: Biay (screenplay with Krzysztof
Piesiewicz) - An attractive French woman abandons her husband, a dull
Polish migr hair stylist. She clearly feels far superior to him. The
desperate Pole, however, proves surprisingly cunning. He plans his revenge
to prove his value to her, regain her admiration and perhaps even her love.
Kielowski frequently underlined that in this film he approached comedy in
a manner highly atypical of his work.

Three Colors: White (1994)

Regarded as (and often unfairly dismissed as) the least essential film in
the Three Colors trilogy, due to its lighter and more comedic tone,
White undeniably does not carry the same emotional weight and
sense of mysterious import as the triptychs bookends, but the picture is
still nonetheless, an engaging and unlikely diverting treat from the
director. Focusing on the theme of equality (and or the lack thereof in
this case; Kieslowskis thematic riffs were hardly linear and often
sarcastic), Kieslowskis black sheep and second film of his lauded
trilogy is a sort of black comedy, centering on Karol, a Polish
hairdresser (Zbigniew Zamachowski) whose wife (Julie Delpy) has
left him due to his impotency. Humiliated, penniless and left abandoned
in Paris without a passport, Karol has to make his way back to Poland
and during his pilgrimage, he befriends another Pole, Mikolaj (Janusz
Gajos) who wants to pay the hairdresser to kill someone who wants to
die, but doesnt have the courage to commit suicide. When Karol finally
returns to Poland, his fortunes turn for the better and he begins
amassing considerable wealth of which he then uses to hatch a
misguided plot of revenge against his wife. A cynical and mordant
examination of marriage, power and the inequalities of wealth, White
may be the weakest of the trio, but Kieslowski still won the Silver Bear
for Best Director at the 44th Berlin International Film Festival in 1994.

1994 Three Colors: Red / Trzy kolory: Czerwony (screenplay with

Krzysztof Piesiewicz) - This film full of symbols and signs centers on
people searching for their 'other halves'. The story is designed to persuade
viewers that ideal pairs of this kind have been programmed by fate, yet
their 'halves' might pass each other in time and space without ever coming
together. Therefore, in order to avoid losing our opportunity at bliss, we
should carefully read the coded signs that appear before us.
- Krzysztof Kieslowski One of the opening images in "Red" is of telephone
lines, crossing. It is the same in life. We are connected with some people
and never meet others, but it could easily have happened otherwise.

Described as the fraternity of strangers, this key line is perhaps

the ultimate connecting throughline and obsession in Kieslowskis
work: how one person on the planet could be thinking the exact
time as someone else in another part of the world and never
know, but maybe could feel a curious sensation at the time. How
deja vu or a ringing in the ears could mean something deeper.
How those unknown to us are perhaps not strangers at all. A
cynical person at heart, but with a deep curiosity of the human
condition, some have suggested the theme of fraternity in Red
was a self-critique of Kieslowskis own selfishness. Whatever the
case may be, the ravishing and sumptuous final conclusion of The
Three Colors trilogy is haunting, poignant and unforgettable.
Starring his muse Irene Jacob once more (after seeing her in
Veronique, Tarantino wanted her for Bruce Willis French wife
in Pulp Fiction, but ironically, she was busy filming Red), the
last chapter in the triumvirate centers on two polar opposite
strangers who by chance via an injured dog become more
and more connected and even bonding far beyond they would
ever imagine. Part time model Valentine (Jacobs) accidentally
runs over a German shepherd and then eventually tracks down
the owner, a reclusive and retired judge (Jean-Louis
Trintignant) soured by old age and the fates of how his life has
turned out. Hes a nasty man, who Valentine discovers is abusing
his powers and secretly recording his neighbors phone calls for
entertainment value (and to continue his former vocation in some
kind of perverse manner). Though morally disgusted with him, the
two find themselves inexorably drawn to one another suggesting a
missed connection in some part of time they did not exist in
concurrently. Typically mysterious, Red is even tentatively
optimistic and is a striking, poetic meditation on alienation,
connection, kinship and togetherness beyond our basic
understanding. Quentin Tarantino himself assumed Red would
win the Palme dOr at Cannes that year and when Pulp Fiction
took the prize instead, the filmmaker was met with some boos and
jeers from those that expected Kieslowskis final film to take the
top prize. Still, to this day, it remains of the most controversial
choices in the history of the festival. Breaking out of the foreign
film category ghetto, Red was nominated for three Academy
Awards, including Best Director, and was the filmmakers final
statement. He retired shortly thereafter and died less than 10
months later during open heart surgery.

K. Kielowski: ...I thought that graduating from the film school would make me know
something about the theatre and directing... It wasn't any goal in itself, the film
school was only a certain stage I could then use for something. So I went to this
school, I mean I tried to get there... and I didn't succeed, by the way. K. Wierzbicki:
How many times did you try?
K. K.: Three.
K. W.: But the last time you stubbornly decided to succeed?
K. K.: The last time I stuck to this. Yes, I thought, 'You, bastards, you don't want me,
so you'll have me there!'
K. W.: And you graduated from the school and soon you started making those sad,
black and white movies.
K. K.: You know, the whole world around was very sad, it was not even black and
white, it was just black, or maybe gray. This is directly connected with a certain
place where the school was and still is, I mean with Lodz. Lodz is... photogenic
because it is dirty and crappy... The whole city is like that, in a certain way, the
whole world is like that. And people's faces are like city walls: sad, full of a drama in
their eyes, you know, the drama of pointless life where you make steps for nothing...
I think we were the first after the war [...] who tried to describe the world as it was.
Of course, those were tiny worlds, in fact worlds in a drop of water, and even names
were like that: the primary school, or the factory, or the hospital, or the office. We
described those tiny worlds as we hoped they were put together somewhere into
something bigger. We hoped to describe life in Poland.
K. W.: But why should such worlds be described?
K. K.: It's hard to live in a world lacking description. It cannot be understood if one
didn't live in a not-described world. It is as if you lived without identity. Simply,
anything around [...] has no reflection, anywhere. You can't see any reference point
around, for nothing has been described and nothing has a name. So you live on your
own, alone; anything that could be used to describe the world was used by
propaganda to build the theoretically attractive idea, but... in reality, unfortunately,
it always ends up the same way: I mean, you feel a gun on your head. We lived by
ideas of fraternity, equality and justice, but there was neither fraternity, nor equality
and no justice at all.(2)\
Nobody could even dream that communism would fall by itself, nobody thought this
way. Rather than that we wished that life would be a bit easier and we would have
at least a grain of freedom. [...] People watched the screen and felt we told their
story. I think it was a notable feature of the 1970s' movies, I mean that people saw
themselves on the screen."