Remembering Kieslowski

Courtesy of Alberto TerrileCreative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 Unported License

Courtesy of Alberto Terrile
Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 Unported License

Today is the 17th anniversary of the Polish film director Krzysztof Kieslowski’s death. 

Ironically, it’s been a few years since I’ve seen his work, and yet the other day, I was compelled to start reading Annette Insdorf’s Double Lives, Second Chances. Perhaps it was the need to revisit his characters, watch his films again, relive why he inspires me.

It was only when I started reading the book this past Monday, I realized the significance of the upcoming date.

For those not familiar with Kieslowski, he is most noted for his television series, The Decalogue, based on the Ten Commandments, and the Three Colours Trilogy (Blue, White, and Red), based on the ideas of liberty, equality, and fraternity.

One of Kieslowski’s strengths was being able to capture emotion on screen. In Three Colours: Blue, the protagonist, Julie, tries to distance herself from society after her husband and daughter are killed in a car accident. In The Double Life of Veronique, the titular character feels a sense of loss, not realizing she has a doppelgänger, a young Polish woman named Veronika. For Tomek (Decalogue 6), the pain of unrequited love leads to disastrous results.

I don’t recall where or when I first heard of Kieslowski. I’ve enjoyed foreign films for years, and one of my favorites is by fellow Polish director, Andrzej Wajda (Ashes and Diamonds). But even though it’s been a while since I’ve watched Kieslowski’s films, images and characters still remain in my memory. Sadly, some of his films seem to no longer be available through Netflix, which is where I saw Blind Chance and Camera Buff. (At least, I think I did. Again, too many years have passed for me to say for sure.) Happily, certain short student films and documentaries are included as “Special Features” on the Criterion Collection box sets of Three Colours and The Double Life of Veronique.

Kieslowski excelled at capturing his characters’ emotions, not only through words and actions, but through “mood and atmosphere” (The Pocket Essentials: Krzysztof Kieslowski). And while writing is different from film making, the idea of creating images in the reader’s/audience’s mind is a shared goal. It will be a pleasure to watch these films again, and to read the screenplays and critical studies, to learn from a master of his craft.

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