Kieslowski – Art and Messages – Section 1. A Brief Biographical Sketch Of Krzysztof Kieslowski

Krzysztof Kieslowski was born in Warsaw in 1941. His father suffered from tuberculosis and the family moved literally dozens of time in search of treatment when Krzysztof was young. He attended the Lodz film school in Poland from 1964 to 1968. During these years the government of Poland supported film making financially and allowed greater freedom of expression than in later years when censorship was quite strict.

Early in his career Kieslowski focused on making documentaries regarding life in Poland. Later he changed to fiction because he believed these films gave him more freedom of artistic expression.

One early fiction film is especially relevant as a precursor to The Double Life of Veronique. Blind Chance (completed in 1981 but not released by the censors until 1987) is much like Sliding Doors (1998) in that the life experiences of the lead character are determined by the chance event of whether he just makes or misses a train. During Blind Chance he runs down the same platform to catch the same train 3 times. Once he catches the train, once a policeman stops him, and once he misses the train but meets an old girlfriend. Each of these chance events leads to three very different lives: Party member, union member who resists the government and; and a quiet life in which he is happily married. In a similar way, Weronika and Veronique end up leading very different lives as a result of different decisions about their careers.

While still working in Poland Kieslowski’s most famous work is probably The Decalogue (1988). This is a 10 part TV film series set in a sterile high-rise housing development – each part is associated with one of Ten Commandments.

With the fall of Communism the opportunity for international collaboration opened up for Kieslowski. The Double Life of Veronique (1991) was his first international movie, being made partly in Poland and partly in France.

Kieslowski’s most famous work is clearly the Three Colors trilogy – Blue (1993), White (1994), and Red (1994). These are the colors of the French flag and he associated each color with the French ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity. The filming for this trilogy was completed in a remarkably short 9-month period during which Kieslowski worked on parts of the different films simultaneously; e.g. editing one while filming another.

After completion of the trilogy, Kieslowski announced his retirement from film. Like Weronika and Veronique he had heart trouble and he died in 1996 on operating table in Poland. Perhaps the stress of making the trilogy so quickly and in new environments took its toll, along with chain smoking, on Kieslowski’s health. In that regard he made a choice similar to Weronika regarding his life and his career.

• A Tribute to Krzysztof Kieslowski. http://my.dreamwiz.coom/jyjung71/eng/kie/bio.html
• Wikipedia, Krzysztof Kieslowski

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9 thoughts on “Kieslowski – Art and Messages – Section 1. A Brief Biographical Sketch Of Krzysztof Kieslowski

  1. Gee Peter, I am a little disappointed that you did not make any comments after my 18 page review of Veronique, SOUL SISTERS–but gosh, it is not a perfect world. My research revealed that Kieslowski had AIDS when he died of his heart failure. What do you know of that? Was it from a blood transfusion, was he on drugs, was he bisexual or homosexual? What did you find out. I loved the notion that in Poland, the art of collaboration was heightened to the max, that writers, cinematographers, and composers all work on a film from its inception. Kieslowski loved editing more than any other phase of filmmaking it seems. I did not realize that he filmed all the raw film for the COLOR TRILOGY in just 9 months, but it is not rare for any film to be shot in 1-3 months after all the prep is done. I wonder how long he took to shoot the 10 part series DEKALOG? That was like three films in length too, each episode ran close to an hour.


  2. Sorry Glenn; I should have written and explained.

    When I received your review I made the conscious decision not even to read it until I finished writing my own. Your reviews are comprehensive and professional. So if I read yours before completing mine I would be influenced by what you said and not make an original contribution. After I finish and post mine we will have at least two independent perspectives on the blogsite. Hopefully that will make the subsequent discussion more fun.


  3. Messieurs, vot iz zer meaning of yer suggestions that I’m not ‘ere. As you can see, I can assure you zat I am alive and vell as can be expected.

    In 1994, Krzystof Kieślowski recieved a polite letter from the Oxford University Press. They were in the process of updating their music encyclopaedia and wanted some details about Van den Budenmayer, the late 18th century Dutch composer whose music he had featured in Decalogue, The Double Life of Veronique and The Three Colours Trilogy. Kieślowski explained that Van den Budenmayer was only a fictional character created by him and his friend Preisner. Kieślowski got another letter with the assurance that they honestly would divulge the information. Kieślowski insisted that the score had been written by a 19 stone self-taught musician friend of his from Krakow. It was no use trying to dissuade them. In the end Kieslowski stopped replying…

    “When Kieślowski died in 1996, after complications with open-heart surgery, it was reported in HELLO magazine, in his obituary, that he also was battling complications from AIDS.” – The reporter from the above well-known and reputable magazine could not have possibly mixed up Kieslowski with another European director Derek Jarman who died earlier in 1994 from an AIDS-related illness after finishing a film called… “Blue”, could he? Kieślowski’s wife Maria would be very surprised since they apparently lived happily together from the time they were married on 21 January 1967 until he died unexpectedly after a scheduled heart-bypass operation in a Warsaw hospital. Slavoj Žižek might indeed think that Kieślowski had retired and, quite likely, something to do with the concept of the idea of the notion of Lacanian Dialectical Meta-Banana Theories Of The Universe And Everything In It but actually it was not the first time that Kieślowski had mentioned retirement.

    Irène Marie Jacob was born 15 July 1966 in Suresnes, a western suburb of Paris but later moved to Geneva. Her eyes are brown-green the last time I spoke to her. Bruce Schwartz’s hands were the hands seen in the film which Kieślowski liked immensely. Jacques Witta (chief editor) said that Kieślowski talked about doing 15, possibly 20 versions of the film, but managed to talk him out of it as they had neither that many distribution outlets nor available theatres at the time. Irène was the one to suggest to Kieślowski to run with her shoe-laces undone for Weronika in Krakow but Kieślowski said “No.” but liked the idea about the shoe-lace. Irène was wearing her own coat, scarf and other clothing for the film. Weronika does fall after being pushed by a demonstrator whereas Irène slipped and fell over for real during the 3rd take on the Rue d’Amsterdam outside Gare Saint Lazare. As the crew stirred, Kieślowski raised his arm and Irène got up and continued, just as a motorbike rider narrowly missed her. Kieślowski kept the shot. Brasserie Alize still exists. The two girls were born on 23 November 1966. I’ll leave it to you to guess why. Room 287 you’ve already noted which Kieslowski apparently inserted for the film critics to faint over when discovered. There is a play on words at the top of the corridor as Véronique leaves Gare Saint Lazare but that would be spoiling it. Film locations for TDLOV and TCR will be on my site sometime soon for anybody interested in wandering around Geneva, Clermont-Ferrand, Krakow, Paris and Chambon-sur-Lac (Mme Blodé’s grave). Mme Blodé?

    Au revoir, mes amies,

    Alexandre FABBRI

  4. Dear Mr. FABBRI.

    I can sympathize with your plight. People have doubted my existence for centuries. I think it is Krzystof ‘s fault that people doubt our existence. If he had made movies that were just clear and understandable, like Rambo for example, then people wouldn’t constantly be asking themselves what is real and what isn’t real in them. But have faith and patience, the good contributors to this Blog site will be able to see through Krzysztof’s fog even if the censors couldn’t. Soon the reality of your existence and mine will be firmly established. We should join together; I would be honored to write the score for your next puppet show (in fact I already did 200 years ago, so get on the stick turkey!)

    Your dear friend,

    Van den B.

  5. Heer Budenmayer!

    Hugo, hoe bent u? Het is bin und longe tijme, eh!

    U spreekt goed Amerikaanse now, eh? What u doing ekzackly in Amerika? I ben juzt posting zer few things on zis blog but you know, zer Amerikans, vell, how u say, they don’t alvays know evrissink, douzzay? I am liking zer writing though. Nice. Nussink forgotten. All points covered. Mystery too zhem, danzerous, no?

    I am of the vonderings, Hugo, if zey understood the connexion vizzer farzer of Véronique askin her abaht Chagall? U know, de oude kerk in Chambon-sur-Lac vere vee spenzer summe zere, zer long time ago together wizzer tentz at zer Camping Le Pré-Bas? U remeber zat? Ha, ha! Goed tijmes, no?

    Hei, Hugo, u know zat I am planning anuzzer puppet show, zo? Vord gets round, mein gott!

    Vell, my fren, eest goed to heir from u agen! Tot ziens for now!


  6. And so the “Trickster” continues to be at work, leaving us all in more of a quandry that ever before. If the character from a Kieslowski film can emerge into flesh, and then find a computer, and then find this blog site, what might follow? I shudder to think that Freddie, Jason, Michael, and Mr. Plainview might soon walk the streets and stalk the websites looking for mention of themselves. And to have Von Budenmayer appear as well, in conflict with is data, with his fictional bio, is almost too much to bear.

    Suffice it to say, that on this blog site, the home base of the TFC scholars, anything can happen. I mean look at how the MEMENTO characters all got their two cents worth of comments in.

    I am amazed, and know not what to say. I did not make mention of the “real” fall that Ms. Jacob took on screen, almost getting hit by the motorcycle. That “real” moment, like a good ad lib left in any film, telegraphed itself as non-fiction–but somehow in the texture of the piece, it all seemed to fit in somehow.

    Glenn 🙂

  7. Hi dear Kieslowski enthusiast. I will be at my usual table in the Brasserie Alizé this evening from 6pm (UK time), chatting to Tony, who used to live in Hampshire, and an enthusiast of Kieslowski’s films. Please drop in whenever you wish, join in the chat and introduce any topic you wish or just listen in if you want.

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