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Krzysztof Kieslowski | Finding an unlikely medium for honesty: fiction in film and at the heart of the what unites us: love and emotion

“For me optimism is two lovers walking into the sunset arm in arm. Or maybe into the sunrise – whatever appeals to you.” – Krzysztof Kieslowski

You will be disappointed if you are looking to Krzysztof Kieslowski to fashion a perfect, happy ending to one of his films. But that is the very reason why I love this director: sublime, honest emotion nestled in reality. Aren’t you also intrigued by an honest portrayal of our internal working, though flawed, played out against the backdrop of our human condition? My favorite film by Kieslowski is “Blue,” which ends with its tragic beginning still intact, with Julie Vignon (de Courcy), played by Juliette Binoche, finally releasing her tears after the loss of her family. We are left only with the hope that she might be capable of embracing the love she now has. In his films, like his Polish counterpart, director Roman Polanski, ambiguity is left intact; I also appreciate the pace these directors allow in filming, which is in keeping with the natural flow of intuition and thought. Understated and not rushed, I do not fear that my senses will be starved while my stream of conscious is bombarded with flashing, dizzying images. As a self-described artisan, Kieslowski came to embrace fiction over documentaries because fiction gave him the medium he needed to portray the truth more accurately, both free from communist meddling and free from the moral boundaries of real life human interactions in filming.

“There was a necessity, a need – which was very exciting for us – to describe the world. The Communist world had described how it should be and not how it really was…If something hasn’t been described, then it doesn’t officially exist. So that if we start describing it, we bring it to life.” – Kieslowski on Kieslowski (Faber and Faber, 1993 p.54-5)

“Not everything can be described. That’s the documentary’s great problem. It catches itself as if in its own trap…If I’m making a film about love, I can’t go into a bedroom if real people are making love there…I noticed, when making documentaries, that the closer I wanted to get to an individual, the more objects which interested me shut themselves off.” – Krzysztof Kieslowski

“That’s probably why I changed to features. There’s no problem there. I need a couple to make love in bed, that’s fine. Of course, it might be difficult to find an actress who’s willing to take off her bra, but then you just find one who is…I can even buy some glycerin, put some drops in her eyes and the actress will cry. I managed to photograph some real tears several times. It’s something completely different. But now I’ve got glycerin. I’m frightened of real tears. In fact, I don’t even know whether I’ve got the right to photograph them. At such times I feel like somebody who’s found himself in a realm which is, in fact, out of bounds. That’s the main reason why I escaped from documentaries.” Krzysztof Kieslowski

“It comes from a deep-rooted conviction that if there is anything worthwhile doing for the sake of culture, then it is touching on subject matters and situations which link people, and not those that divide people. There are too many things in the world which divide people, such as religion, politics, history, and nationalism. If culture is capable of anything, then it is finding that which unites us all. And there are so many things which unite people. It doesn’t matter who you are or who I am, if your tooth aches or mine, its still the same pain. Feelings are what link people together, because the word ‘love’ has the same meaning for everybody. Or ‘fear’, or ‘suffering’. We all fear the same way and the same things. And we all love in the same way. That’s why I tell about these things, because in all other things I immediately find division.” – Krzysztof Kieslowski

“Maybe it is worth investigating the unknown, if only because the very feeling of not knowing is a painful one.” – Krzysztof Kieslowski

“There are mysteries, secret zones in each individual.” – Krzysztof Kieslowski

“We’re always looking at this love through the eyes of the person who is suffering because of this love.” – Krzysztof Kieslowski

The following is an interview with Krzysztof Kieslowski by Patrick Abrahamson in his feature article titled: Kieślowski’s Many Colours, from the Oxford University Student newspaper, June 2, 1995.
The link to the interview is:

Q: So what interests you is life. Is this why you left your first job as a designer to go to school in Lodz and specialize in documentaries?

KK: I wanted to describe the world at the same time, through image, express what I felt. It was the time of the great documentary filmmakers: Richard Leacock, Joris Ivens. Today, television has put an end to this type of filmmaking. The television industry doesn’t like to see the complexity of the world. It prefers simple reporting, with simple ideas: this is white, that’s black; this is good, that’s bad…

Q: So you turned to fiction — yet you stick very close to real life.

KK: I think life is more intelligent than literature. And working so long in documentaries became both a blessing and an obstacle in my work. In a documentary, the script is just to point you in a certain direction. One never knows how a story is going to unfold. And during the shoot, the point is to get as much material as possible. It’s in the editing that a documentary takes place. Today, I think I still work in the same way. 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.

Q: If you took this way of thinking far enough, don’t you think you might end up using scripts merely as pretexts?

KK: No, not at all. Absolutely not. For me the script is key because it’s the means to communicating with the people I work with. It may be the skeleton, but it is the indispensable foundation. Later, many things can be changed: Certain ideas may be eliminated, the end may become the beginning, but what’s between the lines, all the ideas — that stays the same.

Q: You call yourself an artisan, as opposed to an artist. Why?

KK: Real artists find answers. The knowledge of the artisan is within the confines of his skills. For example, I know a lot about lenses, about the editing room. I know what the different buttons on the camera are for. I know more or less how to use a microphone. I know all that, but that’s not real knowledge. Real knowledge is knowing how to live, why we live… things like that.

Q: The more concrete and tangible your films are, the more metaphysical they seem to become. You take more and more close-ups, you’re ever nearer to the characters and objects: you seem to be searching for something beyond the concrete or the physical.

KK: Of course I’d like to get beyond the concrete. But it’s really difficult. Very difficult.

Q: What is it you’re trying to capture?

KK: Perhaps the soul. In any case, a truth which I myself haven’t found. Maybe time that flees and can never be caught.

Q: “The Decalogue” was full of chance meetings — some of them failures and some successful. And in
“Three Colors”, from one film to another, people seem to run into each other.

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.

Q: Each film has a scene with an elderly person trying to put the bottle in the trash can. What does this mean?

KK: I merely thought that old age awaits all of us and that one day we won’t have enough strength left to put a bottle in a container. In “Blue,” to avoid having this scene seem moralistic, I over-exposed the image. I figured that this way Julie doesn’t see the woman, and doesn’t realize what lies ahead for herself. She’s too young. She doesn’t know that one day she’s going to need someone’s help. In “White” Karol smiles because he realizes this is the one person worse off than he is. In “Red” we see something about
Valentine’s compassion.

Q: Valentine knows the price of fraternity and Julie will learn to love again. The same can be said for Karol and Dominique. Even when you’re talking about liberty and fraternity, love is the final word.

KK: To tell you the truth, in my work, love is always in opposition to the elements. It creates dilemmas. It brings in suffering. We can’t live with it, and we can’t live without it. You’ll rarely find a happy ending
in my work.

Q: Yet the screenplay for “Red” seems to say that you believe in fraternity. And the end of “Blue” is optimistic since Julie is able to cry.

KK: You think so? For me optimism is two lovers walking into the sunset arm in arm. Or maybe into the sunrise — whatever appeals to you. But if you find “Blue” optimistic, then why not? Paradoxically, I think the real happy ending is in “White” which is, nevertheless, a black comedy.

Q: A man who goes to visit his wife in prison. You call that a happy ending?

KK: But they love each other! Would you rather have the story finish with him in Warsaw and her in Paris – with both of them free but not in love?

Q: The theme of equality is not, at first glance, very obvious in “White.”

KK: It can be found in different areas: between husband and wife, at the level of ambitions and in the realm of finance. “White” is more about inequality than equality. In Poland we say “Everyone wants to be more equal than everyone else.” It’s practically a proverb. And it shows that equality is impossible: it’s contradictory to human nature. Hence, the failure of Communism. But it’s a pretty word and every effort must be made to help bring equality about…keeping in mind that we won’t achieve it — fortunately. Because genuine equality leads to set-ups like concentration camps.

Q: You’ve lived in France for a year now. Has the experience modified your notion of liberty — hence the tenor of “Blue?”

KK: No, because this film, like the other two, has nothing to do with politics. I’m talking about interior liberty. If I had wanted to talk about exterior liberty — liberty of movement — I would have chosen Poland. Since things obviously haven’t changed there. Let’s take some stupid examples. With your passport, you can go to America. I can’t. With a French salary you can buy a plane ticket to Poland, but this would be impossible vice-versa. But interior liberty is universal.

Q: “Blue” seems like a continuation of “The Double Life of Veronique,” which itself picks up on an element from “Decalogue 9” (the cardiac singer). We could go on and on… Each film seems to give you a rough outline for another film.

KK: Of course, because I’m always shooting the same film! There’s nothing original in that though. All filmmakers do the same, and authors are always writing the same book. I’m not talking about “professionals,” I mean authors. Careful, I said authors, not artists.

Q: Is it difficult to shoot in France without speaking the language?

KK: Of course, but I have no choice. Here I get financing. In other places, I don’t. At the same time, it’s more interesting than working somewhere I know too well. It enriches my perspective. I’m discovering a world that’s so different, a language that’s so complicated and rich! This is shown when I suggest — in
Polish of course — a slight change in the dialogue. Everyone comes back at me, in France, with suggestions for twenty ways to change it.

Q: You’ve created a European symphony during your three shoots…

KK: As you may have gathered, we speak French, English, Polish, and German. We’ve created an atmosphere in which everyone is comfortable. I have no problem being with people of different nationalities.

Q: Do you feel European?

KK: No. I feel Polish. More specifically, I feel like I’m from the tiny village in the Northeast of Poland
where I have a house and where I love to spend time. But I don’t work there. I cut wood.

From Patrick Abrahamson Kieślowski’s Many Colours, Oxford University Student newspaper, June 2, 1995, see links above.

Check out the following links if you have further interest in Krzysztof Kieslowski:

Three Colours Blue (with English Subtitles) Trois Couleurs: bleu – Kieslowski – 1/9

Three Colours Blue (with English Subtitles) Trois Couleurs: bleu – Kieslowski – 2/9

Three Colours Blue (with English Subtitles) Trois Couleurs: bleu – Kieslowski – 3/9

Three Colours Blue (with English Subtitles) Trois Couleurs: bleu – Kieslowski – 4/9

Three Colours Blue (with English Subtitles) Trois Couleurs: bleu – Kieslowski – 5/9

Three Colours Blue (with English Subtitles) Trois Couleurs: bleu – Kieslowski – 6/9

Three Colours Blue (with English Subtitles) Trois Couleurs: bleu – Kieslowski – 7/9

Three Colours Blue (with English Subtitles) Trois Couleurs: bleu – Kieslowski – 8/9

Three Colours Blue (with English Subtitles) Trois Couleurs: bleu – Kieslowski – 9/9

Though Karol’s wife in Kieslowski’s “Three Colors: White” is horribly mean and inflicts much pain on him, I am including it here because there is so much else to love about this movie. Why does he love someone who is so terrible to him? She simply creates a backdrop of his suffering for love; naively consumed with his love of her. I particularly love the scene where Karol travels to Poland in a suitcase from France, gets beat up by thieves immediately upon getting out of the suitcase, falls down a snowy hill afterwards, stands up and looks out at a cold steamy dump, only to be so happy, thankful and relieved to be home in Poland.

Three Colors: White (Trois Couleurs: Blanc)- Kieslowski – part1

Three Colors: White (Trois Couleurs: Blanc)- Kieslowski – part2

Three Colors: White (Trois Couleurs: Blanc)- Kieslowski – part3

Three Colors: White (Trois Couleurs: Blanc)- Kieslowski – part4

Three Colors: White (Trois Couleurs: Blanc)- Kieslowski – part5

Three Colors: White (Trois Couleurs: Blanc)- Kieslowski – part6

Three Colors: White (Trois Couleurs: Blanc)- Kieslowski – part7

Three Colors: White (Trois Couleurs: Blanc)- Kieslowski – part8

Three Colors: White (Trois Couleurs: Blanc)- Kieslowski – part9 – final

Gadajace glowy (Talking heads) part 1 of 3

Gadajace glowy (Talking heads) part 2 of 3

Gadajace glowy [Talking heads] part 3 of 3

Mike Posner – Please Don’t Go



  1. Pingback: Contrapunto: crónica de un viaje alucinante « Pijamasurf - November 7, 2013

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