Out of all the many characters I’ve seen in cinema, I find myself relating most personally to those lonely, unsung, near-isolated souls, maybe because I see in them reflections of my own personality that I am afraid to explore. I’m referring to those reclusive types, who face the public in one way and themselves in another; people who fail to subject their impulses and feelings to moralistic behavior, for reasons they find difficult to explain. A good number of them fantasize, live life like it is a dream, and do not try to make much sense of it all (hopefully, I haven’t narrowed it down too much). The majority of Polish film director Krzysztof Kieslowski’s cinema surrounds such characters.
The thing about his characterization that distinguishes his directorial vision is his raw, unsoiled presentation of emotions. Kieslowski’s filmography might very well be labelled as his search for identity, perhaps the identity he thought he lacked himself (something he had mentioned in several interviews). In this article, I’d like to conduct an analysis of his films, and try to find patterns in his cinema that defined both his vision and style as a filmmaker.
Camera Buff (1979)
Camera Buff is a film about a filmmaker. Though I wouldn’t call it autobiographical in any way, elements of what Kieslowski himself considers of cinema is present in the works of the movie’s protagonist. The structuring of this picture is interesting, because though there is a solid story with three identifiable acts, the way it is all gone about is quite loose and seemingly unprofessional. Having to do with a man who buys an 8mm film camera around the time of his son’s birth in order to capture the events surrounding the glorious happening, Camera Buff details how his status in society grows along with his passion for creating art, all of which ultimately leads to trouble, both at home and outside. Personally, I’m not a big fan of the translated title of this film.
I feel the Polish original, Amator, is more fitting and descriptive of this fine piece of cinema, about confusions arising from obsession. The ending of this picture is what makes it better than what it was up until then. It’s a simple scene, and without spoiling it, I will say that Filip, the filmmaker, slowly realizes what he’s been missing in his cinema, what caused all the hullabaloo to occur in his life, and the real reason he bought the camera in the first place. Touching like few pictures are, Camera Buff knows well how to pass on its themes in subtlety, and there’s something I find awfully beautiful about that.
The Double Life of Veronique (1991)
There’s a sort of storytelling strategy, in the form of both a basic idea and a thread, that stays prevalent in the majority of Kieslowski’s pictures. In The Double Life of Veronique, it is the fantastical and near-complex experimentation with a story involving two women embodying the same person (in ways unlike what one would come to expect straight off of films like Bergman’s Persona or Altman’s 3 Women) that backdrops the picture. What we’re given is a strikingly emotional film, thoroughly heartfelt, and effortlessly magical. Veronique and Weronika are identical in almost every way, from appearance to emotional conveyance, but they live miles apart. A strange, unexplainable sense of connection between the two women bring them closer to each other, through people, through places, and through feelings.