Kieslowski on Kieslowski


1966
The Tram - 5 mins 45 secs - color- short feature
Night. A boy runs and jumps on a tram. There are very few passengers: a worker on his way to work, a pretty girl. The boy, attracted to the girl, tries to make her laugh, then watches her fall asleep. He gets off at his stop but has second thoughts and, as in the first sequence, runs after the same tram where the girl sleeps.

The Office - 6 mins - b/w - documentary
The counter of a State-owned insurance office, a queue forms in front of the counter window and the employee repeats the question: 'What have you done in your lifetime?'. A satire on the impenetrability of bureaucracy.

1967

Concert of Requests - 17 mins - b/w - feature
A coachful of rowdy youths stops by a lake. They drink, play football, generally fool around. One of the youths runs after the ball and sees a couple among the bushes. He stares, entranced by the girl, but the coach driver sounds his horn; it's time to go. The coach leaves. The couple pack their bags and overtake the coach on their motorbike. The girl, sitting on the back of the bike, drops her backpack. The coach driver stops, picks it up. The couple turn back for the bag. The driver won't hand them the bag unless the girl travels in the coach with the drunken youths. She's ready to do so but peace is restored as the girl goes back to her boyfriend. The youth with the football wistfully watches the couple ride away.

1968

The Photograph - 32 mins - b/w - documentary
An old photograph of two little boys, wearing soldiers' hats and holding rifles. The camera goes in search of these two boys, now grown men, and registers their emotion as they are confronted with the photograph.

1969

From the City of Lodz - 17 mins 21 secs - b/w - documentary
'A portrait of a town where some people work, others roam around in search of Lord knows what...A town which is full of eccentricities, full of all sorts of absurd statues and various contrasts...full of ruins, hovels, recesses.' (Krzysztof Kieslowski)

1970

I Was a Soldier - 16 mins - b/w - documentary
A documentary 'about men who had been soldiers and lost their sight in the Second World War...The soldiers just sit there, in front of the camera, throughout the film, and talk.' (Krzysztof Kieslowski)

Factory - 17 mins 14 secs - b/w - documentary
A working day in the Ursus tractor factory. Shots of workers alternate with those of a management board meeting. The factory cannot meet its production quota because there is a shortage of equipment, parts, and so on. Papers are sent out, licences are applied for, numerous meetings held, but there seems to be no way out of the vicious network of misunderstandings and bureaucracy - the left hand doesn't know what the right is doing. As one of the board members says: 'the bureaucracy in this country hampers any solution'. Yet the workers still have to meet their quota.

1971

Before the Rally - 15 mins 9 secs - b/w/color - documentary
Ten days of preparation for the Monte Carlo rally. The two Polish drivers battle with the technical shortcomings of the Polish Fiat 125. They did not finish the race. An allegory of the country's industrial and economic problems.

1972

Refrain - 10 mins 19 secs - b/w - documentary
Documentary about the bureaucracy involved in funerals. Grief and emotions are turned into numbers and a pile of paperwork. Then children are born. And so it goes on and on.

Between Wroclaw and Zielona Gora - 10 mins 35 secs - b/w
A commissioned film about the Lubin copper mine.

The Principles of Safety and Hygiene in a Copper Mine - 20 mins 52 secs - color
Commissioned film about the conditions of safety and hygiene in the Lubin copper mine.

Workers '71: nothing about us without us - 46 mins 39 secs - b/w - documentary
Filmed after the strikes of December 1970 and the downfall of Gomulka, the film 'was intended to portray the workers' state of mind in 1971. We tried to draw a broad picture showing that the class which, theoretically at least, was said to be the ruling class, had somewhat different views from those which were printed on the front page of the Trybuna Ludu.' (Krzysztof Kieslowski) The film was later re-edited by Polish Television and shown, without credits, as Masters.

1973

Bricklayer - 17 mins 39 secs - color - documentary
Documentary about a bricklayer who, during the Stalinist era, was encouraged by the Party to become an exemplary worker and further the Communist cause. A young activist, he was promoted and, he says, 'I became a jack-in-office, instead of an activist...I got a desk job and gasped for breath, I had to let in fresh air through the window...And then came the year 1956 and everything tumbled down all of a sudden. It was a little painful. The question was: What now? And in 1956 I asked them to relieve me and send me back to my job in production. I returned where I had come from.' The camera follows the bricklayer - a man whose life has been used up by the ideological powers above him - during the may Day parade, alternating with the scenes from his daily life.

Pedestrian Subway - 30 mins - b/w - tv drama
A woman has left her teaching job in a small town where she used to live and works as a shop decorator in a pedestrian subway in Warsaw. Her husband comes looking for her in the hope that she will return to him.

1974

X-Ray - 12 mins 63 secs - color - documentary
Patients suffering from tuberculosis speak of their fears and of their wishes to return to a normal life.

First Love - 30 mins - color - tv documentary
The camera follows a young unmarried couple during the girl's pregnancy, through their wedding, and the delivery of the baby.

1975

Curriculum Vitae - 45 mins 10 secs - b/w - drama documentary
A Party Control Committee cross-examines a Party member threatened with expulsion from the Party. The life-story of the accused is a fictional one - although the man playing the role had experienced something similar in his own life - while the Party Control Committee is real. As the meeting progresses, the Control Committee begins to believe in the authenticity of the case and gives the accused its professional inquisitorial treatment.

Personel - 67 mins - color - tv drama
Romek, a sensitive and forthright young man fascinated with the magic of art, comes to the opera to work as a tailor. Gradually, as he is confronted with the reality behind the scenes - the bickering, petty jealousies, vindictiveness and corruption - his illusions shatter. The film ends with Romek sitting in front of a blank sheet of paper on which he is to denounce his friend, a fellow tailor who was sacked through the maliciousness of one of the performers.

1976

Hospital - 21 mins 4 secs - b/w - documentary
The camera follows orthopaedic surgeons on a 32-hour shift. Instruments fall apart in their hands, the electrical current keeps breaking, there are shortages of the most basic materials, but the doctors persevere hour after hour, and with humour.

Slate - 6 mins - color
A compilation of footage from The Scar not used in the final cut of the feature film.

The Scar - 104 mins - color - feature
1970. After discussions and dishonest negotiations, a decision is taken as to where a large new chemical factory is to be built and Bednarz, an honest Party man, is put in charge of the construction. He used to live in a small town where the factory is to be built, his wife used to be a Party activist there, and he has unpleasant memories of it. But he sets to the task in the belief that he will build a place where people will live and work well. His intentions and convictions, however, conflict with those of the townspeople who are primarily concerned with their short-term needs. Disillusioned, Bednarz gives up his post.

The Calm - 44 mins - color - tv drama
Antek Gralak has just been released from prison. He leaves his home town of Krakow and sets to work on a building site in Silesia. All he wants are the simple things in life: work, somewhere clean to sleep, something to eat, a wife, television and peace. Anxious to avoid conflicts and happy to be alive and free, he is friendly with his colleagues and open-hearted and grateful to his employer. He finds a girl, marries, but conflicts at work prove inevitable. Building materials disappear and Gralak's boss is involved in the theft. Thinking that he's found a potential accomplice in Gralak, the boss proposes to bring him in on the underhand deals. A strike breaks out among the builders. Torn between the two sides - his boss and his colleagues - and longing for peace, Gralak turns up for work. The builders believe he has grassed and beat him up as he mutters 'Calm...calm.'

1977

From a Night Porter's Point of View - 16 mins 52 secs - color - documentary
Portrait of a factory porter, a fanatic of strict discipline, who extends his power even into his personal life as he tries to control everybody and everything in the belief that 'rules are more important than people...That means that when a man doesn't obey the rules, ' he says, 'you could say he's a goner...Children also have to conform to the rules and adults who live on this earth, for whom this beautiful world has been created. I reckon you've got to have capital punishment...Simply hang him [the culprit]. Publicly. Tens, hundreds of people would see it.'

I Don't Know - 46 mins 27 secs - b/w - documentary
'The confession of a man who was the director of a factory in Lower Silesia. He was a Party member but opposed the Mafia-like organization of Party members which was active in that factory or region. Those people were stealing and debiting the factory account. He didn't realize that people higher up were involved in the affair. And they finished him off.' (Krzysztof Kieslowski) 'Was I right? I don't know!' the man concludes.

1978

Seven Women of Different Ages - 16 mins - b/w - documentary
Episodes in which each day of the week shows a ballerina of classical dance at work or in rehearsal; but the ages of the dancers vary from the smallest child taking her first steps in ballet to the eldest ballerina who is now a ballet teacher.

1979

Camera Buff - 112 mins - color - feature
Filip Mosz buys himself an 8mm camera to record the first years of his new baby. He becomes fascinated with his new acquisition and his interests turn to filming subjects other than his family. In the factory where he works, his bosses seize the opportunity and appoint him their official chronicler. His films win prizes at amateur contests and as his creative talents develop so does his desire to record reality as it really is and not as it is officially reported to be. At his factory he is confronted with censorship and as a result of his films his immediate boss is sacked: the management believe a documentary portrait of a disabled worker to be a discredit to their factory even though the person concerned is a model worker. Meanwhile his wife, despising the time and commitment Mosz dedicates to his films, leaves him. Mosz opens his cans of film, exposing them to light. He turns the camera on himself.

1980

Station - 13 mins 23 secs - b/w - documentary
Warsaw's Central Railway Station. 'Someone has fallen asleep, someone's waiting for somebody else. Maybe they'll come, maybe they won't. The film is about people like that, people looking for something.' (Krzysztof Kieslowski) Overhead video 'spy' cameras watch over the station.

Talking Heads - 15 mins 32 secs - b/w - documentary
Seventy-nine Poles, aged seven to 100, answer three questions: When were you born? What are you? What would you like most?

1981

Blind Chance - 122 mins - color - feature
Witek runs after a train. Three variations follow on how such a seemingly banal incident could influence the rest of Witek's life. One: he catches the train, meets an honest Communist and himself becomes a Party activist. Two: while running for the train he bumps into a railway guard, is arrested, brought to trial and sent to unpaid labour in a park where he meets someone from the opposition. He, in turn, becomes a militant member of the opposition. Three: he simply misses the train, meets a girl from his studies, returns to his interrupted studies, marries the girl and leads a peaceful life as a doctor unwilling to get mixed up in politics. He is sent abroad with his work. In mid-air, the plane he is on explodes.

Short Working Day - 79 mins 22 secs - color - feature
'It's a critical film about a Party Secretary in a pretty large town 100 kilometres from Warsaw. Rebellions and strikes started up in 1976 because of price rises. A large protest broke out which ended with people setting fire to the regional Party Committee headquarters. At almost the last moment, the Secretary fled the building. He tried to stay right up to the end but when the furniture started getting hot, the police, with help from their informers, somehow managed to get him out.' (Krzysztof Kieslowski)

1984

No End - 107 mins - color - feature
The ghost of a young lawyer observes the world as it is after martial law. Three motifs interweave. A worker accused of being an activist with the opposition and whom the young lawyer was to defend, is now being defended by an older, experienced colleague who is resigned to a degree of compromise. The lawyer's widow only realizes after her husband's death how much she loved him and tries to come to terms with her emptiness. And there's the metaphysical element, 'that is, the signs which emanate from the man who's not there anymore, towards all that he's left behind'. (Krzysztof Kieslowski)

1988

Seven Days a Week - 18 mins - color - documentary
One of a cycle of films made cities by various directors. Warsaw. Monday to Saturday, each day shows a fragment of the life of a different person. Sunday all six are reunited at supper; they are all members of one family.

A Short Film about Killing - 85 mins - color - feature
A youth randomly, and brutally, murders a taxi-driver. Piotr has just passed his law exams and been admitted to the bar. He is to defend Jacek, the young murderer. There is no evidence for the defence and no apparent motive. Jacek is put on trial, found guilty and executed by hanging. Piotr, after his first case, is left with the bitter doubt - does the legal system, in the name of the people, have the right to kill in cold blood?

A Short Film about Love - 87 mins - color - feature
Tomek, a young post office worker, is obsessed with Magda, the promiscuous woman, who lives in the tower block opposite. He spies on her through a telescope and finally declares his love. She initiates him into the basic fact of life - there is no love, only sex. Tomek, shattered, tries to commit suicide but doesn't succeed. When he returns from hospital, it is Magda who becomes obsessed with him.

The Decalogue - color
Ten television drama films, each one based on one of the Ten Commandments.
'I am always reluctant to single out some particular feature of the work of a major film-maker because it tends inevitably to simplify and reduce the work. But...it should not be out of place to observe that [co-authors Krzysztof Kieslowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz] have the very rare ability to dramatize their ideas rather than just talking about them. By making their points through the dramatic action of the story they gain an added power of allowing the audience to discover what's really going on rather than being told. They do this with such dazzling skill, you never see the ideas coming and don't realize until much later how profoundly they have reached your heart.' (Stanley Kubrick, January 1991)

Decalogue 1 - 53 mins
Krzysztof introduces his small son, Pawel, to the mysteries of the personal computer, a machine which he believes to be infallible. It is winter. Pawel, anxious to try out his new pair of skates, asks his father if he can go out to the local pond which has just frozen over. They consult the computer; the ice will hold the boy's weight; he can go. Pawel doesn't come home. There was a freak local thaw; the computer was wrong; Pawel drowned. Krzysztof runs over to the church in protest and despair, falls against an altar. Candle wax splashes over the face of the Black Madonna and dries on her cheeks as tears.

Decalogue 2 - 57 mins
Dorota visits Andrzej, her dying husband, in the hospital. She is pregnant - this might be the last chance for her to have a baby - but not by him. She asks the Consultant in charge of her husband's case, whether Andrzej will die. If he lives, she will have to have an abortion; if he dies, she can have the child. How can the doctor decide the life or death of an unborn child? How can he be certain whether his patient will die or miraculously recover? He tells Dorota that her husband doesn't have a chance; but Andrzej recovers. Dorota tells Andrzej that they are going to have a baby; he thinks it's his.

Decalogue 3 - 56 mins
Christmas Eve, a night when families are together and nobody wants to be alone. Ewa tricks Janusz, her ex-lover, away from his family and under various pretexts tries to keep him with her for the night. Janusz wants to go home but Ewa is determined. They part at dawn.

Decalogue 4 - 55 mins
Anka is 20 years old. Her mother is dead and she lives with Michal, her father. They get on well together. Michal has to go on a trip abroad. While he is away, Anka finds an envelope in her father's room: 'Not to be opened before my death.' Within that envelope is another, addressed, in her mother's handwriting, to her. Anka meets her father on his return and quotes the letter where her mother reveals that Michal is not Anka's real father. A different relationship emerges between Anka and Michal as Anka subtly tries to seduce him. Michal resists; she might still be his daughter. As Michal leaves for another trip, Anka runs after him, confessing that she hasn't read the letter after all.

Decalogue 5 - 57 mins
Television version of A Short Film About Killing.

Decalogue 6 - 58 mins
Television version of A Short Film About Love.

Decalogue 7 - 55 mins
Six-year-old Ania is being brought up by Ewa in the belief that Majka, Ewa's daughter, is her sister, whereas Majka is really her mother. Tired of living this lie and desparate to have Ania love her as a mother, Majka 'kidnaps' Ania and runs away from her parents. She seeks refuge with Wotjek, Ania's father. Majka was just a schoolgirl when Wojtek, her teacher, got her pregnant. Ewa, jealous of Ania's love, looks for her everywhere, phones Wojtek. Majka seizes her little girl and continues to run; she still will only return home if her mother allows her to bring up her own daughter in the recognition of the true relationship. Majka and Ania hide at a nearby station. Ewa asks the woman at the ticket office whether she has seen a young woman with a little girl. The ticket woman lies - yes, she did see them but they left some two hours ago. In the background, Ania wakes up and sees Ewa. 'Mummy,' she calls and runs to her. A train arrives, Majka jumps on, rejecting Ewa's pleas for her to come home.

Decalogue 8 - 55 mins
Elzbieta, researching the fate of Jewish war survivors, is visiting from New York and sits in on lectures in ethics at the University of Warsaw. She approaches Zofia, the professor, and tells her that she is the little Jewish girl whom Zofia refused to shelter from the Nazis during the Occupation. As Zofia explains the reason for this apparent cowardice - someone had betrayed Zofia's husband who was active in the underground and any Jewish child would have fallen into the hands of the Gestapo - her long-standing sense of guilt is cleared while Elzbieta's faith in humanity is restored.

Decalogue 9 - 58 mins
Roman learns he's impotent. Recognizing his wife, Hanka's, sexual needs, he encourages her to take a lover. She is reluctant; she loves Roman, but does have an affair with Mariusz, a student. Roman, despite his own words, becomes excessively jealous and obsessed with the thought that Hanka might have followed his encouragement and taken a lover. He spies on her and learns of her relationship with Mariusz, unaware of the fact that Hanka has broken off the affair. Roman tries to commit suicide but survives. Hanks rushes to his side.

Decalogue 10 - 57 mins
A man dies leaving an extremely valuable stamp collection to his two sons, Jerzy and Artur. Although they know very little about stamps, they are unwilling to sell. They learn that one very rare stamp is needed to complete a valuable set. To acquire the stamp Jerzy donates his kidney - the man in possession of the stamp is in need of a kidney for his daughter. Returning from hospital, Jerzy and Artur find that they have been burgled. The entire stamp collection is gone. Shamefully, they confess that they suspected each other and are reconciled.

1991

The Double Life of Veronique - 98 mins - color - feature
Poland. Weronika, who sings beautifully, suffers from a heart condition. She has to choose - continue singing with all the strain and stress which this involves and risk her life, or give up her singing career. During a concert she suffers a heart attack and dies. France. Veronique is Weronika's double. She, too, has a beautiful voice and a heart condition. But without knowing it, she shares Weronika's wisdom. When Weronika suffers, Veronique senses that she must avoid the situation which leads to the pain. Veronique rejects her singing career and teaches music at a primary school. One day, Alexandre, a puppeteer and story writer, visits for school. She is entranced by him and reads the books he has written. Days later she receives mysterious messages - an empty cigar box, a shoe lace, a cassette recording of various sounds made in a station cafe. She finds the station cafe and sees Alexandre waiting for her. In the hotel room where they make love, Alexandre finds the photographs which Veronique took when she visited Poland. He sees Weronika, thinking it's Veronique. It is only now that Veronique, the other, an identical one, of Weronika; he wants to use Veronique's life and emotions for his own purposes. Veronique leaves and returns home to her father.

1993/94

Three Colors: Blue, White, Red - color - feature trilogy
Three features work separately and as a trilogy in which the present meanings of the three concepts Liberty, Equality and Fraternity are explored.

Blue (1993) - 100 mins - color
Julie loses her husband Patrice, a renowned composer, and their young daughter Anna in a car accident. She tries to forget, to cut herself off from all previous ties and begin a new life. She moves to an area in Paris where she believes no one will find her but she cannot avoid all the traps - feelings, ambitions and deceptions - which threaten her new freedom. Nor can she lose her husband's - or is it her own? - music. This is one aspect of her life which she cannot control.

White (1993) - 100 mins - color
Karol, a Polish hairdresser in Paris, is humiliated. He has become impotent and his wife throws him out to the streets. He meets an equally forlorn fellow countryman who helps smuggle him back into Poland. On home ground, Karol tries to be 'more equal' than others and plots revenge on his wife. No longer happy with the small-time hairdressing establishment which he ran with his brother, he tries his hand at making quick money. Through connivance and cunning, he makes himself a fortune, then feigns his own death. His wife appears at his 'funeral', and when Karol discloses himself to her, their love for each other is resurrected. But it is too late.

Red (1994) - 100 mins - color
Valentine, a young model, knocks over a dog as she drives. She takes the bitch in, checks out her address and goes in search of her owner. She finds the villa and discovers an elderly gentleman, living in neglect and eavesdropping on telephone conversations. Initially indignant at what the man is doing, she is nevertheless drawn into a psychological relationship. A friendship grows as the Judge begins to confide in Valentine.

Taken from the book "Kieslowski On Kieslowski" edited by Danusia Stok, published by Faber and Faber, 1993.


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