Kieślowski, Krzysztof

   Perhaps the best-known Polish filmmaker of the 1990s. On his third attempt, in 1964, Kieślowski was admitted to the Łódź Film School, completing his studies in 1968. He established himself by the mid-1970s as a leading Polish documentary filmmaker with films such as The Photograph (Zdjęcie, 1968), From the City of Łódz (Z miasta Łodzi, 1969), I Was a Soldier (Byłem zołnierzem, 1970), Bricklayer (Murarz, 1973/1981), and First Love (Pierwsza miłość, 1974). In his later documentary films, such as Seven Women of Different Ages (Siedem kobiet w róznym wieku, 1978) and Talking Heads (Gadające głowy, 1980), he strived for directness and authenticity and showed interest in typical characters in an observation of a small portion of reality. A modest television drama, Personnel (Personel, 1975), marked his shift toward narrative cinema and a long-term working association with the Tor Film Studio headed by Krzysztof Zanussi. In 1976 Kieślowski directed two realistic films: The Calm (Spokój, released in 1980), starring Jerzy Stuhr, and The Scar (Blizna), with Franciszek Pieczka. By the late 1970s and at the beginning of the 1980s, he became one of the best-known representatives of the Cinema of Distrust. His commitment to uncover the "unrepresented reality" was evident in Camera Buff (Amator, 1979), starring Stuhr, a meditation on filmmaking, its pleasures and dangers, and an essay about being faithful to oneself and personal sacrifice, as well as about the responsibilities of being an artist.
   Kieslowski's next film, Blind Chance (Przypadek, 1981, released in 1987), which quickly attained dissident cult status at the beginning of the 1980s, portrayed an undergraduate medical student played by Bogusław Linda whose future is determined by whether he is able to jump onto a moving train. Blind Chance served as a pessimistic philosophical parable on human destiny shaped by occurrences beyond individual control. His next film, No End (Bez końca, 1985), the first one he made after the imposition of martial law in December 1981 and one of the bleakest films ever made in Poland, contained elements of psychological drama, a ghost story, romance, and courtroom drama and was a political and metaphysical film.
   Kieslowski's fame spread beyond national borders toward the end of the 1980s. Decalogue (Dekalog, 1988), a ten-part series of contemporary television films loosely inspired by the Ten Commandments, was hailed by Western European film critics as a great achievement and incontestably placed its director among the ranks of renowned European auteurs. In particular, extended feature versions of two parts of Decalogue, A Short Film about Killing (Krótki film o zabijaniu, 1988) and A Short Film about Love (Krótki film o miłości, 1988), were exceptionally well received in Europe.
   Working closely with a small circle of creative collaborators, including coscriptwriter Krzysztof Piesiewicz, composer Zbigniew Preisner, and cinematographer Sławomir Idziak, Kieślowski had been moving gradually away from documentary observations and documentary techniques by adding metaphysical elements and relying on visual associations. In his Polish-French coproductions, beginning in 1991 with The Double Life of Veronique (La double vie de Veronique), which focused on the parallel existences of the Polish Weronika and the French Veronique (both played by Irene Jacob), the realistic, often uncomplimentary vision of Poland—a realm of drab landscapes populated by gray characters who are dwarfed by the political system—gave way to dazzling photography, as if taken from glossy illustrated journals. Kieslowski's Three Colors Trilogy, Three Colors: Blue (Trois couleurs: Bleu, 1993), Three Colors: White (Trois couleurs: Blanc, 1994), and Three Colors: Red (Trois couleurs: Rouge, 1994), a major cinematic achievement of the 1990s, was inspired by the colors of the French flag and the central notions of the French revolution. In the trilogy Kieślowski continued to portray transcendental and metaphysical issues and dealt with protagonists facing moral dilemmas in their individual quests for the three values embodied in the French flag. The films won numerous awards, including the Golden Lion at the Venice International Film Festival for Blue. At the same festival, the Best Actress award was given to Juliette Binoche and the Best Photography award to Idziak. White received the Silver Bear award at the Berlin Film Festival (Best Director category). Red received numerous awards, including three Academy Award nominations in 1995 (direction, screenplay, cinematography). Kieślowski's international copro-ductions consolidated his position as a household name in European art cinema. On 13 March 1996 he died in Warsaw following heart bypass surgery. His premature death at the peak of his artistic powers came as a profound shock to the world filmmaking community.
   Other films: Pedestrian Subway (Przejściepodziemne, TV, 1973), Curriculum Vitae (Życiorys, TV docudrama, 1975), Short Working Day (Krótki dzień pracy, 1981, TV premiere in 1996).
   Historical Dictionary of Polish Cinema by Marek Haltof

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

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