WHO is he?

Polish scenarist and film director who made over 40 short and feature length films in a 30-year career spanning the 1960s and the 1990s. Kieslowski made short documentaries about Polish social reality — a phase that would influence his subsequent filmmaking starkly — before moving on to feature-length fiction. The first part of his Three Colours trilogy, Blue (1993), won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.

WHAT are his films about?

Themes

Kieslowski turned away from social realism and political specificity of his earlier works to a more abstract, personal brand of cinema that emphasises the interconnectedness of people and the idea that people separated by geography or social status could be thinking about or having the same experience at the same moment. Chance, coincidence and fate are recurring constructs. His films, especially the 10-part Decalogue (1989) that is based on the Ten Commandments, are illustrations of the ways spirituality manifests itself in modern life.

Style

It could be said that Kieslowski’s style falls in line with the general inclinations of European arthouse cinema, with an emphasis on mise en scène — the physical elements of a scene — for conveying meaning. Abundance of close-ups, expressionist use of score, and subjective cinematography — often handheld — are some of the characteristic elements of Kieslowski’s aesthetic. His use of glass in his scenes — glass that breaks, glass that shields, glass that separates, glass that unites — and enclosed spaces that reflect the psychology of the characters are also noteworthy.

WHY is he of interest?

Along with Andrej Wajda, Kieslowski remains one of the key figures in Polish cinema who helped it gain international recognition. The inventive narrative strategies that he devised in his films with long-time collaborator and lawyer Krzysztof Piesiewicz could be seen as precursors to later-day hyperlink narratives, in which we find the lives of numerous characters inseparably intertwined.

WHERE to discover him?

Camera Buff (1979) is a story about being in love with images. It centres on family man Filip (Jerzy Stuhr) and his relationship with his newly purchased 8mm camera, which he uses to film the world around him. One of Kieslowski’s earliest and most personal films, Camera Buff is a paean to both the creative and destructive powers of cinema. It is both a topical indictment of contemporary Polish bureaucracy and censorship and a personal statement confessing a change of artistic direction for Kieslowski.

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