Krzysztof KieŚLOWSKI - Director

Nationality: Polish. Born: Warsaw, 27 June 1941. Education: School of Cinema and Theatre, Lodz, graduated 1969. Career: Worked as director of documentaries and fiction films for TV, from

Krzysztof Kieślowski
Krzysztof Kieślowski

1969; directed first feature for cinema, Blizna, 1976; vice president of the Union of Polish Cinematographers, 1978–81; member of faculty of Radio and Television, University of Silesia, 1979–82; made Dekalog , series of short films for Polish TV, 1988–89, then gained financing to make longer versions of two episodes for cinematic release. Awards: First Prize, Mannheim Festival, for Personel , 1975; FIPRESCI Prize, Moscow Festival, for Amator , 1979; Diploma from the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1979; Special Jury Prize, Cannes Film Festival, and Academy Award for Best Foreign Feature Film, for A Short Film about Killing , 1988. Died: Of a heart attack, 13 March 1996.

Films as Director:

(Documentary shorts, unless otherwise stated)


Urzad ( The Job )


Zdjecie ( The Photograph ) (for TV)


Z miasta Lodzi ( From the City of Lodz )


Byłem żołnierzem ( I Was a Soldier ); Przed rajdem ( Before the Rally ); Fabryka ( Factory )


Gospordaze ( Workers ) (co-d); Miedzy Wrocławiem a Zielona Góra ( Between Wroclaw and Zielona Gora ); Podstawy BHP w kopalni miedzi ( The Degree of Hygiene and Safety in a Copper Mine ); Robotnicy 71 nic o nas bez nas ( Workers 71 ) (co-d); Refren ( Refrain )


Murarz ( Bricklayer ); Dziecko ( Child ); Pierwsza miłość ( First Love ) (for TV); Prześwietlenie ( X-Ray ); Przajście podziemne ( Pedestrian Subway ) (feature for TV)


Zyciorys ( Life Story ); Personel ( Personnel ) (feature for TV)


Klaps ( Slate ); Szpital ( Hospital ); Spokój ( Stillness ) (feature for TV); Blizna ( The Scar ) (feature)


Nie wiem ( I Don't Know ); Z punktu widzenia nocnego portiera ( Night Porter's Point of View )


Siedem kobiet w różnym wieku ( Seven Women of Various Ages )


Amator ( Camera Buff ) (feature)


Dworzec ( The Station ); Gadajace głowy ( Talking Heads )


Krótki dzień pracy ( A Short Working Day ) (feature for TV); Przypadek ( Blind Chance ) (feature, released 1987)


Bez końca ( No End ) (feature)


Krótki film o zabi janiu ( A Short Film about Killing ) (feature); Krótki film o milóści ( A Short Film about Love ) (feature)


Dekalog ( Decalogue ) (10 episodes for TV)


City Life ( Episode in Netherlands ) (feature)


Podwójne życie Weroniky ( La Double vie de Véronique ; The Double Life of Véronique ) (feature) (+ sc)


Trois couleurs Bleu ( Three Colours: Blue ) (feature) (+ sc); Trois couleurs Blanc ( Three Colours: White ) (feature) (+ sc); Trois couleurs Rouge ( Three Colours: Red ) (feature) (+ sc)



Decalogue , London, 1991.

By KIEŚLOWSKI: articles—

Interview, in Jeune Cinéma (Paris), December 1979.

Interview with H. Samsonowska, in Kino (Warsaw), October 1981.

Interview with S. Magela and C. Göldenboog, in Filmfaust (Frank-furt), April/May 1983.

Interview with Marszalek, in Kino (Warsaw), August 1987.

"Un cinéma au-dela du pessimisme" (interview), in Revue du Cinéma , no. 443, November 1988.

Interview with A. Tixeront, in Cinéma (Paris), December 1988.

Interview, in Time Out (London), 15 November 1989.

Interview with B. Fornara, in Cinema Forum , April 1990.

Interview with P. Cargin, in Film , May/June 1990.

Interview with T. Sobolewski, in Kino , June 1990.

Interviews with M. Ciment and H. Niogret, in Positif , June 1991 and September 1993.

Interview with M.C. Loiselle and C. Racine, in Images , November/December 1991.

"Dziennik 89–90," in Kino , December 1991/February 1992.

Interview with V. Ostria, in Kino , August 1992.

Interview with Steven Gaydos, in Variety , 8 August 1994.

"Giving Up the Ghost," interview with Kieślowski, in Time Out (London), no. 1262, 26 October 1994.

On KIEŚLOWSKI: articles—

"Krzysztof Kieslowski," in International Film Guide 1981 , edited by Peter Cowie, London, 1980.

Zaoral, F., "Krzysztof Kieslowski," in Film a Doba (Prague), September 1985.

Kieslowski Section of Positif (Paris), December 1989.

Revue du Cinéma/Image et Son (Paris), January 1990.

Cavendish, Phil, "Kieslowski's Decalogue ," in Sight and Sound (London), Summer 1990.

Taubin, A., "Kieslowski Doubles Up," in Village Voice , 24 Septem-ber 1991.

Kieślowski, Krzysztof, "Les musiciens du dimanche," in Positif (Paris), no. 40, June 1994.

Ryans, T., and P. Strick, "Glowing in the Dark/ Trois couleurs ," in Sight and Sound (London), vol. 4, no. 6, June 1994.

Hoberman, J., "Red, White, and Blue," in Premiere , October 1994.

Harvey, Miles, "Poland's Blue, White, and Red," in Progressive , April 1995.

Lucas, Tim, "'How Death Will Judge Us': A Krzysztof Kieślowski Videolog," in Video Watchdog (Cincinnati, Ohio), no. 30, 1995.

"Special Issue," Kino (Warsaw), vol. 30, no. 5, May 1996.

Macnab, Geoffrey, and Chris Darke, "Working with Kieślowski," in Sight and Sound (London), vol. 6, no. 5, May 1996.

* * *

In the late 1970s, when the conflict between the State and the citizens of Poland was imminent, a new trend emerged in cinematography—the "cinema of moral unrest." All the films in this trend have one common denominator: an unusually cutting critical view of the state of the society and its morals, human relationships in the work process, public and private life. It is more than logical that Krzysztof Kieślowski would have belonged to this trend; he had long been concerned with the moral problems of the society, and paid attention to them throughout his film career with increasing urgency. The direction of his artistic course was anticipated by his graduation film From the City of Lodz , in which he sketched the problems of workers, and by his participation in the stormy protest meeting of young filmmakers in Cracow in 1971, who warned against a total devaluation of basic human values.

A broad scale of problems can be found in the documentary films Kieślowski made between shooting feature films: disintegration of the economic structure, criticism of executive work, and the relationship of institutions and individuals. These documentaries are not a mere recording of events, phenomena, or a description of people and their behaviour, but always attempt instead to look underneath the surface. The director often used non-traditional means. Sometimes the word dominates the image, or he may have borrowed the stylistics of slapstick or satire, or he interfered with the reality in front of the camera by a staged element. Kieślowski did not emphasize the aesthetic function of the image, but stressed its real and literal meaning.

His feature films have a similar orientation: he concentrated on the explication of an individual's situation in the society and politics, on the outer and inner bonds of man with the objectively existing world, and on the search for connections between the individual and the general. He often placed his heroes in situations where they have to make a vital decision (in his TV films The Staff and The Calm , and in his films for theatrical release).

The Amateur is the synthesis of his attitudes and artistic search of the 1970s, and is also one of the most significant films of the "cinema of moral unrest." In the story of a man who buys a camera to follow the growth of a newborn daughter, and who gradually, thanks to this film instrument, begins to realize his responsibility for what is happening around him, the director placed a profound importance on the role of the artist in the world, on his morality, courage, and active approach to life. Here Kieślowski surpassed, to a large extent, the formulaic restrictions of the "cinema of moral unrest" resulting from the outside-the-art essence of this trend. These restrictions are also eliminated in his following films. In The Accident (made in 1981, released in 1987) he extended his exploration of man and his actions by introducing the category of the accidental. The hero experiences the same events (Poland in 1981) three times, and therefore is given three destinies, but each time on a different side. Two destinies are more or less given by accident, the third one he chooses himself, but even this choice is affected by the accidental element. The transcendental factor appears in No End (a dead man intervenes in worldly events), but the film is not an exploration of supernatural phenomena so much as a ruthless revelation of the tragic period after the declaration of the state of emergency in December 1981, and a demonstration of the professed truth that private life cannot be lived in isolation from the public sphere.

In the 1980s Kieślowski's work culminated in a TV cycle and two films with subjects from the Ten Commandments. A Short Film about Killing is based on the fifth commandment (Thou shalt not kill), while A Short Film about Love comes from the sixth. Both films and the TV cycle are anchored in the present and express the necessity of a moral revival, both of the individual and the society, in a world which may be determined by accidentality, but which does not deliver us from the right and duty of moral choice.

After the fall of communism when, as a consequence of changes in economic conditions, the production of films experienced a sharp fall in all of Eastern Europe, some Polish directors sought a solution to the ensuing crisis in work for foreign studios and in co-productions. This was the road taken by Kieślowski, and so all his films made in the 1990s were created with the participation of French producers: The Double Life of Véronique and the trilogy Three Colours: Blue, Three Colours: White, and Three Colours: Red —loosely linked to the noble motto of the French Revolution: liberty, equality, fraternity. In these films Kieślowski followed up on his films from the 1980s, in which his heroes struggle with the duality of reason and feelings, haphazardness and necessity, reality and mystery. Even in these films made abroad we can also trace certain irony and sarcasm which first appeared in his films made in the 1970s in Poland.

—Blažena Urgošíková

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