The Krzysztof Kieslowski blog-a-thon is on!

Most recent update: Monday, 5 March 2007, 3:20pm CST

Starting today and continuing until the end of March 5th, Quiet Bubble is ground zero for all things related to the great Polish filmmaker. My post on White starts things off here. Send in your links—I’ll be updating this post twice or thrice daily—and spread the word.
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Film at Eleven gets the party started with an entry on Camera Buff:

But Camera Buff is not merely an allegory for the place of the filmmaker in society, or even simply the story of one such example. As Filip grows excited and awestruck by the possibilities of cinematic creation, so the film becomes more and more in love with cinema itself. Filip’s camera swoops and follows anything that it fancies, and Kieslowski’s is along for the ride. The two frequently become one, as the viewer experiences the pure exhilaration of cinematic sight. And despite the loss of Filip’s wife and child due to his movie obsession, Camera Buff is one of the most optimistic works ever made about the medium.

The mighty Jim Emerson of Scanners writes on a film directed by Jerzy Stuhr—Karol’s droll, hilarious brother in White—that’s based on a Kieslowski screenplay. I’d never even heard of The Big Animal, and now I’ve got to check it out. The essay’s so cool it’s got screen captures:

The mild existential shock of this opening image sets us up for the satire—of bureaucracy and toleration of individuality—that is to come. A man and his wife adopt the stray camel. At first, everyone is happy. A camel is a novelty in this village, and it becomes the man’s pride and joy. He is no longer ordinary, but exceptional. He has a camel!

Pacheco makes a wish list of series that Kieslowski could have filmed, which makes me, alas, mourn even more than the director passed away so suddenly in 1996. He’s taking suggestions. My favorite is this one:

—A series on Dante’s Circles of Hell (though I know what he was working on for Hell is based on Dante’s ideas).

Brian writes beautifully on The Double Life of Veronique, parsing out—among other things—its rhythmic, musical cinematic patterns. In the process, he gets at something that’s true of Kieslowski’s oeuvre as a whole (and there’s even great quotes from the filmmaker):

Rather than utilizing the expected dramatic structure of conflict and resolution to carry the film, Kieslowski instead develops an aesthetical quality based almost solely upon repetition to bind the stories of the two characters. From the very beginning, aspects brought into the production to engage the viewer’s senses are established and then repeated over and over again. Examples include similar images, recurrent musical themes, mirroring camera angles, shared social scenarios, common personality traits, and of course, the two main characters being played by the same actress.

In so doing, the film can easily be enjoyed for nothing more than noticing this rhythmic layering of sensual patterns into film format. Especially seeing as how each scene is exquisitely detailed in all the production elements to create an otherworldly beauty that matches the most romantically ornate efforts found in other artistic mediums. Such richness not only immerses the characters into a shared environment, working to deepen the metaphysical mystery of the similarities between the two women, but seduces the viewer into the ebb and flow of the enigmatic emotions brought into the film.

FilmSquish devotes the blog-a-thon to exploring each of the ten movies in The Decalogue. Links to all the commentaries start here, but here’s a taste from the opener:

With each story Kieslowski has the opportunity to preach to us about sin and God, yet he chose to remain a storyteller of the dramatic, sometimes an observer, as his shooting style often expresses. This is not merely a ten-hour mortality play that makes you wish you spent more time in church, these are stories rich with truth and life.

Flickhead offers another take on Jerzy Stuhr’s The Big Animal:

It seems apparent that Kieslowski—who was once set to direct—would’ve worked from the political subtext of the source material. There’s a wealth of Kafkaesque persecution and paranoia waiting to be mined from Orlos’s original, but Stuhr’s innate benevolence and dry humor protects him from stepping too far into the abyss. While this certainly works to the benefit of the comedy and human drama of the picture (avoiding those murky fatalistic potholes Kieslowski often swam in), it diminishes the irony of the final act, and makes those heartwarming last moments in the zoo feel rigged. Yet other scenes, such as dinner between the couple and the camel, and an impromptu jam session between it and a clarinet, are awfully hard to resist.

Galimatias takes on Three Colors: Blue, showing how Kieslowski juxtaposes the traditional meaning of “blue” (sorrow, grief, depression) with the symbolism on the French flag (liberty):

Bleu is probably the most musical of Kieslowski’s films besides The Double Life of Veronique. Complementing the lyrical structure of the film is the abundant usage of color blue. Traditionally, blue signifies sorrow and grief; on the French flag, it represents liberty. Those significations are well known. However, Bleu can be and is read in various ways; the people who I have watched this film with have rarely concluded that it is an examination of liberation.

CultureSnob recorded an audio commentary track on Three Colors: Blue. Play it online, alongside your DVD of Blue, or download the track for offline listening. Cool idea.

Steve Carlson teases out a reading of The Double Life of Veronique that’s darker than I usually see:

Veronique receives a package in the mail containing an audiotape; on the tape is cryptic ambient noise. She deciphers the location through vague clues and shows up there to find that the tape was indeed sent by the puppeteer. When pressed as to why he’s drawn her out, the only thing he can say is, “Because… I don’t know.” If he is indeed a stand-in for God, this is possibly the most terrifying answer he could have given. It’s bad enough for Veronique that she feels the loss of her dopplegänger (if, as Scott Tobias suggests, the two women share a soul, that would leave Veronique adrift with half a soul), but now she has to deal with God telling her that he has no clue as to the purpose or meaning of everything she’s gone through for Him.

A hearty thanks to everyone who’s participated and/or let others know about the blog-a-thon.
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Some preliminary reading:

Doug Cummings’ Senses of Cinema overview of Kieslowski’s career.

CultureSpace on The Double Life of Veronique, among other films.

Adrian Chan on Red.

Steve Carlson on A Short Film about Killing and A Short Film about Love.

Hugo gives us a smorgasbord: Decalogue IV, Decalogue II, Three Colors: Red, and The Double Life of Veronique.

Roger Ebert on The Decalogue.

About Walter Biggins

Walter Biggins is a writer based in Athens, GA. His work has been published in RogerEbert.com, Bookslut, The Comics Journal, Salon, The Baseball Chronicle, Jackson Free Press, and Valley Voices: A Literary Review. Follow him on Twitter (@walter_biggins), and check out his bimonthly newsletter (https://tinyletter.com/Walter_Biggins).
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9 Responses to The Krzysztof Kieslowski blog-a-thon is on!

  1. Squish says:

    Congrats on the ‘Thon! Here’s my contribution!
    http://www.filmsquish.com/guts/?q=node/2284

  2. bayrat says:

    Hello! Good job on the blog-a-thon! Here’s my little entry:
    http://bayrat.wordpress.com/2007/03/04/krzysztof-kieslowskis-bleu/

  3. Culture Snob says:

    Freedom Isn’t Free: A Not-So-Drunken Commentary Track for Blue

    A…

  4. Culture Snob says:

    My contribution: a commentary track for Three Colors: Blue:
    http://www.culturesnob.com/2007/03/freedom_isnt_free.php

  5. pacheco says:

    A commentary track — that’s brilliant! Not a bad idea for the future….
    Great job so far with the blog-a-thon!

  6. Culture Snob says:

    Honesty compels me to say that a commentary track is less brilliant than lazy — quicker than writing.
    And don’t call it “brilliant” until you’ve listened.
    I know how to sell it, don’t I?

  7. pacheco says:

    Ah, but what makes you think I haven’t listened to it?
    Okay, I haven’t yet….
    I guess what I meant was that I found it to be an interesting/creative alternative, one I never would have thought of, but wished I did.

  8. Culture Snob says:

    In addition to the aforementioned commentary track, I (belatedly) wrote a short piece on the opening shot of Blue. Both can be found here.

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