cutting on the action

photography and film – facts, ideas, values

Concentrating on Kieslowski: Blind Chance

Fate and Choice in Kieślowski’s Blind Chance by Yvonne Ng

November 24, 2008 Posted by | film [its techniques], Kieslowski, Krzysztof Kieślowski | | Leave a comment

Concentrating on Kieslowski: More on Blue


Music is important in Blue. Musical notes often appear on the screen,so in this sense the film’s about music, about the writing of music, about working on music. For some people Julie is the author of the music we hear. At one stage the journalist asks Julie: ‘Did you write your husband’s music?’ And Julie slams the door on her. So this possibility does exist. Then the copyist says:’There a lot of corrections.’ There had always been a lot of corrections. Did Julie only do the corrections? Maybe she is one of those people who aren’t able to write a single sheet of music but is wonderful in correcting a sheet which has already been written. She sees everything, has an excellent analytical mind and has a great talent for improving things. The written sheet of music isn’t bad but when she’s improved it, it is excellent. But it’s not all that important whether she’s the author or co-author because what has been corrected is better than it was before. The music is cited all through the film and then at the end we hear it in its entirety, solemn and grand. So we’re led to think she’s played a part in its creation. In this sense the film’s about music.


 Kieslowski on Kieslowski  (1993)   Edited by Danusia Stok 

Found in GoogleBook :

Subject, Society and Culture by Roy Boyne

Chapter 6: Kieslowski’s Subjects pp 127- 147, has pages 128, 134, 138 and 143 missing, but is readable. A detailed treatment in three sections: Blue, Subject of Blue and Three Subjects.

November 23, 2008 Posted by | film [its techniques], Kieslowski, Krzysztof Kieślowski | | Leave a comment

Concentrating on Kieslowski: A Short Film About Killing

A Short Film About Killing (DVD Times review link) which was an extended version of Dekalog 5: Thou Shall Not Kill, is also on YouTube in 6 parts. Because the parts seem to be all over the place in Youtube, they’ll eventually be listed here.

November 19, 2008 Posted by | film [its techniques], Kieslowski, Krzysztof Kieślowski | , | Leave a comment

Concentrating on Kieslowski: A Short Film About Love

The Amator DVD has not arrived. In the meantime A Short Film About Love, the extended and changed version of Dekalog 6 (Adultery) is on Youtube in 8 parts.

Grażyna Szapołowska takes the part of Magda, and Olaf Lubaszenko plays the boy, Tomek

The DVD Times review, covers it well.

November 19, 2008 Posted by | film [its techniques], Kieslowski, Krzysztof Kieślowski | | Leave a comment

Film : cinematography

A rather neat hypertext cinematography course from  cinemaSense

November 18, 2008 Posted by | cinematography, film [its techniques] | | Leave a comment

Concentrating on Kieslowski: Camera Buff (Amator)

Film info from Kino on Video

Wiki: Camera Buff

Dan Schneider on Camera Buff

James Berardinelli reviews Camera Buff

Barbara Bernstein reviews Camera Buff

Camera Buff by Rahul Hamid in Senses of Cinema

Camera Buff NYT Movies  (may need to register)

Camera Buff (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1979) blog post  Film at 11

Camera Buff Review from Not Coming to a Theatre Near You (This link is to the reviews of Three Colours)

November 18, 2008 Posted by | film [its techniques], Kieslowski, Krzysztof Kieślowski | | Leave a comment

Concentrating on Kieslowski: man and work

GoogleBook facsimile.  Substantial part of text.

* Discusses of the Cinema of Moral Concern/Cinema of Moral Anxiety/Cinema of Distrust.

Corin Depper in Scope, reviews Kikasola book and explains Kickasola’s use of the notion of liminality in his analysis of Kieslowski’s films.

GoogleBook facsimile. Substantial part of text.

Review of book by Annette Insdorf

2-page review of Three Colours by Brain Udoff

Wim Wenders, Agnieszka Holland, Andres Veiel

by Dave Hall

Before Dekalog, Kieslowski had been first a documentary maker, then a politically-minded feature director in his native Poland: he was also an admirer of both Ken Loach and Ingmar Bergman, which helps point you in the direction of his sensibilities.

By Harvey Weinstein

Short quote

by Tadeusz Miczka
Translated by Andrzej Cimala

From :

When he died in 1996, the Polish auteur left a screenplay. Can Tom Tykwer – young German director of Run Lola Run – do it justice?

  • Richard Williams, in a 2006 Guardian article at the time of a Krzysztof Kieslowski Revisited season at the National Film Theatre, on the 10th. anniversary of Kieslowski’s death, gives many of the answers from Kieslowski himself:

“In the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s, movies counted. Because everyone was against the communist system, it was easy for us to tell stories the public understood, even during censorship. Now, the audience doesn’t know what it wants to see, and we don’t know what we want to say.”

He decided to walk away to spend his time more constructively, messing about with his collection of power tools. Less than two years after his announcement, he died in a Warsaw hospital during heart surgery.


By 1984, when he made No End, Kieslowski was already winning prizes on the international festival circuit. This, however, was the first fruit of his collaboration with Krzysztof Piesiewicz, a trial lawyer who, that same year, would successfully prosecute the four state security men accused of murdering Father Jerzy Popieluszko, a young Warsaw priest who had spoken out in favour of Solidarity. Kieslowski and Piesiewicz met in court, while the director was attempting to film cases being tried under martial law; they would go on to create the screenplays for all Kieslowski’s remaining films.

Very helpful essay:

Blue” is a film of an intense subjectivity, where the camera sometimes occupies the body of the actor


Cinematographer Slawomir ldziak, whom Kieslowski calls upon for his most expressionistic work (A Short Film About Killing, The Double Life of Veronique), shoots with a depth of field so shallow, a focus so precise, that his lens can barely hold a single, small object in clear view.


In discussing “The Double Life of Veronique,” Kieslowski makes a distinction between the “synthetic” narrative style of the first, Polish half of the film by which he means a narrative that goes from episode to episode, covering a year or so of the heroine’s life in half an hour of screen time-and the “analytic” style of the French part, which focuses on Veronique’s state of mind as reflected in the nonnarrative elements of the mise-en-scene: camera placement, color, and so on.

The same distinction applies to the French and Polish components of “Three Colors”: Julie lives in a subjective, inwardly focused, visually oriented environment, Karol in an objective, aggressive, action- oriented world.

Website has brief synopses and filmographies of each of Dekalogs

Chris Pizzello reviews Three Colours in American Cinematography :

Kieslowski elaborates on his cinematic theory of “retroactive reasoning,” in which images that seem ambiguous upon first viewing accrue greater depth when revisited later on. In doing this, the director coaxes the viewer’s subconscious into making the connection between the images. A perfect example of this theory is the stunning final shot of Red, in which a seemingly banal image suddenly takes on profound meaning.

YouTube : The Cinema lesson 3/3

Krzysztof Kieślowski analyses scenes from Three Colours, including example of retroactive reasoning.

See also 1/3, 2/3.

* Compares Red cinematography of late Piotr Sobocinski to that of Vittorio Storaro in Bertolucci’s  The Conformist.

The Double Life of Veronique: Kieslowski and Pure Emotion Kevin Pearson

Blog, Mystery man on Film, post: Visual Storytelling – Kieslowski’s “Blue”

YouTube insert with search box.

Kieslowski’s Many Colours

Patrick Abrahamson: Oxford University Student newspaper, June 2, 1995

Interviewed Kieslowski


Alex Waterhouse-Hayward’s blog: October 7, 1994 photo of Kieslowski. Text:

Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski is best known for his Three Colour Trilogy (Blue-White-Red). My impression of him is based on another colour. To be precise, a deep green. I photographed him for the Globe & Mail on October 7, 1994. I watched gentle Christopher Dafoe (check blog for Saturday, May 27) interview him in the legendary (for me since I have photographed so many people there) Sun Room of the Hotel Vancouver. Kieslowski did not look well and he was chain smoking. I go this impression that he was not going to be around for long. A year later he had a heart attack and barely recovered. He died March 13, 1996. When I pulled out my deep green filter he looked at me and smiled. “I am a photographer, too,” he said to me. “I know what a green filter does, exactly.” And he posed for me and winked. As he looked straight into my camera I saw a man who was preparing to die. And I also knew, he knew, exactly, what the photograph was going to look like.

November 17, 2008 Posted by | film [its techniques], Kieslowski, Krzysztof Kieślowski | | Leave a comment

Concentrating on Kieslowski: Three Colours White


I’m not the only one to find White, as part II of the trilogy, a slight disappointment, signified by not being able to watch it again till later. I couldn’t wait for a repeat viewing of the other two.

The connections are there. The old lady is still hunched, and still struggling to put her bottle into the bottle back as in Blue and Red:  Julie in Blue does not see the old lady because she is in a momentary reverie as she catches a patch of sunlight on her face, and Valentine in Red, helps her put the bottle into the container. In White,  Karol Karol just smiles. From what I have read since, the smile has been interpreted as schadenfreude. To me, it seemed to amount to “He’s down, she’s down, and he recognises it”. He’s had quite few mishaps recently. Doing nothing to respond to the old lady hints at the character that will emerge, or be exposed, by his experience of free-wheeling capitalism back in Poland.

Whereas as Karol becomes a wealthy businessman on his return to post-communist Poland, and is seen a tougher character, in Paris he seems vulnerable, the victim of events.  It doesn’t seem possible that the one should change into the other. Maybe that is part of the anti-capitalist message! Although the theme is equality, Kieslowski treated it as unequality and somewhere has said so.

There is a suggestion by some clever clogs that White takes place after the ferry disaster at the end of  Red, presumably on the basis that in Red both Karol and his ex-wife survive the ferry sinking. In Blue Julie looks into a court room through a round window in the door to look at her husband’s mistress, Sandrine, witnessing the divorce scene in White.  A voice speaking in rapidly in French – presumably the translator – asks “What about equality? Is it because I can’t speak French that court won’t hear my case?”

In the Strictly Film School summary of White, there is mention of the achronology.

Maybe more later. White is not a priority in my film viewing/study.

November 17, 2008 Posted by | film [its techniques], Kieslowski, Krzysztof Kieślowski | | Leave a comment

Concentrating on Kieslowski: second viewing of Three Colours Red

This post is not really for someone who hasn’t seen the film.

Kieslowski has failed in his film to show me his object! Even after a second viewing, a week after the first, I can’t honestly say I grasped the full meaning of the story. I’ve had to rely on the extras on disk 4 plus a range of reviews and comments such as these below:

Three Colors Red by Krzysztof Kieslowski

A complex, comprehensive review by Dan Schreider – he covers every angle – weaving in references to other director’s work. He says after summarising the plot: ” Throughout the film there is the sense that Kern is more than mortal.” I didn’t see that at all until the end of the second viewing.  It is not difficult to see, a certain way through the film, that the the young judge might be in some way connected to the past of retired judge Joseph Kerns, but not immediately. This is because the information contained in the conversations that model/student, Valentine, has with Kern are needed to come to this surmise. Part of the films technique is to propel the story of Augustine the newly appointed judge in the present of Valentine, rather than doing it in a past: Auguste drives a modern 4 x 4  and is living in the same street as Valentine. This suggests something akin to what happens in The Double Life of Veronique, where each Veronique/Weronik is aware of the other at a distance. My impression on first watching Veronique was that Kieslowski was trying to use quantum imagery: particles can connect with each other at great distances, which is highly counter-intuitive.

In Red a new life is acting out in every detail what has happened for another person. Kern talks with Valentine about his life near the end of the film. There is no sense in which he is remembering the past based on earlier cues in the film. It is established that they are both judges early on, which allows the guess that Auguste is Joseph Kern. It is finally confirmed in the late scene when Kern explains – and the camera swoops down to illustrate – he too dropped his law book. But even then, knowing The Double Life of Veronique, I was left wondering if this was akin to his notion that music is convergent: that is possible two people could compose exactly the same piece of music in different places or times because as Kieslowki has said, “…the notes are out there.” In Blue, this is toyed with over the tune the street musician is playing being like the concerto. (Though at one point sheet music for the unfinished music is thrown away….)

Kieslowski has said all his films are the same film. This is certainly true of Three Colours and Veronique, where such things as the fictional composer Von Budenmayer in Veronique appearing in Red, which is all explained well by Schreider.

Demystifying Three Colors: Red by Anthony Leong

While Auguste is crossing the street one night, the elastic holding his books together snaps, and the books fall onto the street. One book falls open on a certain page, which he reads, and his subsequent exam asks a question relevant to that material. The same thing happened to the older judge, only thirty-five years earlier and in an auditorium.

Yes, but in the film chronology this is only explained for Judge Kern right at the end of the movie. Until that point the two events have not been conjoined. Not pointing this out does not help in demystifying the film!

Schreider suggests something which helps tie in Blue, White and Red.  We learn from the extras on disc 4 that all three films were made at the same time (though not exactly how and how and when they were edited):

…given the time frames of the three films, the ending of Red could have happened before the ending of White, since that film takes place over the longest span of time — almost two years.

How many people might have seen, after watching all three in the correct order, that our hero went on to divorce his wife in the Paris courts, survive the ferry disaster and go on to success in post-communist Poland.

An Artistic Consideration: Kieslowski’s Judgement in Red

Red is very complex in its construction. I don’t know whether we’ll manage to get my idea across on the screen. [. . .] I’ve got everything I need to put across what I want to say, which is really quite complicated. Therefore, if the idea I’ve got in mind doesn’t come across, it meant that either film is too primitive a medium to support such a construction or that all of us put together haven’t got enough talent for it.
– Krzysztof Kieslowski, June 1993

So that is not too much a love-fest: from a review by Bryant Frazer:

Kieslowski’s harshest critics maintain that the films sap the sympathies of an irredeemably gullible audience. They accuse him of arranging for fashionable Frenchwomen to traipse through his very European landscapes, murmuring New Age platitudes, sleeping with sensitive New Age guys, and pouting for the camera. The director’s newest film, Red, the culmination of his Three Colors trilogy which also includes Blue and White, they insist, is overblown claptrap, substituting notions of Fate and Destiny for credible film-making. The new issue of Film Comment (November-December 1994) juxtaposes a rich essay on the trilogy by New York Daily News critic Dave Kehr with a tirade against it (by Phillip Lopate) which insists that the film’s supporters have been aesthetically “bamboozled.”

Critics have complained that Kieslowski’s films are reliant on coincidence and overblown ideas about Destiny, but it’s a moot complaint when the director is so honest about his role as grand manipulator of his own world, weaving his presence thematically into the work. The culmination of his masterful Three Colors trilogy suggests there is Something Larger than Kieslowski’s characters. Whether that is the Deity or simply the Director is left for us to decide.

There is also, Kieslowsi’s “Three Colors”, by Jonathan Kiefer, which is a detailed commentary/essay on the whole and the parts of Three Colours. Although bits of ideas are to gleaned from many on-line sources, if I had to chose one alone this would be it up to now. His take is both in terms of story, in particular how these three stories integrate, and cinematography. For example, he observes of Blue:

Cinematographer Slawomir ldziak, whom Kieslowski calls upon for his most expressionistic work (A Short Film About Killing, The Double Life of Veronique), shoots with a depth of field so shallow, a focus so precise, that his lens can barely hold a single, small object in clear view. The cut glass hanging that Julie takes from her husband’s studio, or the metallic candy wrapper that her daughter held in the wind just before the accident-these and other emotionally charged objects are allowed to dissolve into shapeless impressions and free-floating clouds of color (blue, of course), hanging over Julie’s world like strange spiritual effusions.

There are more systematic considerations, which anyone wanting to study Kieslowski can benefit from:

In discussing “The Double Life of Veronique,” Kieslowski makes a distinction between the “synthetic” narrative style of the first, Polish half of the film by which he means a narrative that goes from episode to episode, covering a year or so of the heroine’s life in half an hour of screen time-and the “analytic” style of the French part, which focuses on Veronique’s state of mind as reflected in the non-narrative elements of the mise-en-scene: camera placement, color, and so on.

The same distinction applies to the French and Polish components of “Three Colors”: Julie lives in a subjective, inwardly focused, visually oriented environment, Karol in an objective, aggressive, action-oriented world.

November 17, 2008 Posted by | film [its techniques], Kieslowski, Krzysztof Kieślowski | , , | 2 Comments

Concentrating on Kieslowski: A second viewing of Three Colours Blue

This post is not really for those who have not seen the film.


I’m always shooting the same film!    [..] authors are always writing the same book.

Blue for the second time, a week later, and all the extras in the Artificial Eye DVD of Three Colours. Editor Jacques Witta [2} {3} , says at one point Red should follow Blue.  After watching all three for the first time in the standard order, I felt that too, before seeing Wittas’ comment — mostly because White was not a film I really want to watch all through again so soon, and then maybe only to run through certain sections. And despite each film overlapping at certain points and Red having an ending which recapitulates all three films.  Without knowing the main character in White, the end of Blue would be harder to understand, but the reason for wanting Red to follow Blue is as much about it needing greater examination.  Some reading had suggested it was harder.

I have a tendency to watch a film cinematographically, missing many story details. I find it very easy to be caught up with some technical aspect or structural element of the plot: perhaps sets of equivalences, or counter-currents created through image and voice-over, or image and music.  I made up my mind, when watching Blue the second time, to focus on the story and the cinematography equally: to make sure not to miss anything in the story; to revisit the technicalities I was now familiar with:  I knew when and where they were coming.

I could tell you the story all the way through now in detail – not true the first time through concentrating too hard on film-making and aesthetics. Even after the first viewing, despite Three Colours: Blue being so highly praised – a master work – it might, despite its artistic merits, the blueness might be seen as clunkily executed: as if film technique stood proud from the storyline. The question is whether Kieslowski could have made Blue without the blueness. Or Red without the red. Do we really want red cars and shops signs?

There may be an inherent tendency, in the response to any film, to flip from total absorption and acceptance to awareness of technique, and back. The director may want you to do this.  I like the idea of being deliberately distracted and having to force myself back to what matters, whether is is in prose, poetry, music, art or film. In this film, for example, suffusing the whole field of view with blue in the swimming pool scenes, the brain cannot not but become occupied with the fact of the director is choosing to telegraph an emotion or interior state, while at the same time trying to examine the actor trying to express the emotion. The thing about film is that colour filters can be used so they will be used!  If a writer tried to prime his reader with “The whole scene was suffused with blue..” or “Julie felt her whole world turn blue…” it would never be considered technique in the way that using some cinematographic trick can be. The written expression of an interior state is often much more successfully executed than a filmic representation of it. With film, the immediate distinction between a filter put between viewer and actor in a scene as a device, and it being meant to signify something interior is not always immediately obvious.

As Scott Deskin says here of Red,

It has little to do with the vague symbolic notion of the French virtues that are supposed to make each film cohere, but it is enjoyable and emotionally satisfying.

In Blue, the blue motif is expressed in the use of blue camera filters, blue objects and blue reflections {listed in James Berardinelli’s review}. There can be moments – as I felt in the second viewing – when you tend to be leap-frogging from blue to blue and so not totally enfolded, immersed, in the story.  There is nonetheless a clever three-for-one: the clever, artistically satisfying use of blue, plus the automatic psychological and emotional response to the use of blue for telegraphing for mood, plus the understanding of meaning and how it fits into the main character’s feelings and responses. This is what makes Kieslowski a master.  In this interview Kieslowski gives insights into how he saw himself as a film-maker, which seem relevant to understanding what Kieslowski ends up with in his finished films.


In the first viewing, certain features caught my attention, such as the fades to black and the way the music was played out loud, but was meant (I thought obvious to anyone, but maybe I’m wrong) to be in the heads of Julie and her husband’s composing associate Olivier as they ran fingers along scores.  I was impressed by this finger following the score, because I can’t read music.  And yet, in the simple music played, I was able to!

You get two for one: the music is on the soundtrack, but you are being shown (not told) there is really silence in the room as the two composers imagine the music from the score. If one can do that, how magical! And how impressive that film can show it in a way a novel probably can’t. I can’t play a tune in my head, so I was wondering what it was they were ‘hearing’ when they looked at the score.  A hint there of deaf Beethoven composing and playing without hearing his own music. And the notion of one being what one leaves behind, heightened here by it being beautiful music. Plus, as if there were an argument here in a visual explanation, of music allowing one to get as close to a dead person as anything, or maybe more: can writing, a diary, a painting, or some photographs or some home-video without the sound do as good a job? A viewer might watch that and be asking what she is going to leave behind and how it will be responded to.

Here, something I took up in looking at Bela Tarr’s long takes,  that slow film allows the viewer to escape from the film being watched. The fast-cut action movie is not designed for this, except in that one might identify with the hero or anti-hero.  In a slow movie there is space for individual, personal, interior journeys. The great director builds this into a film. Kieslowski says he is happy with there being many interpretations of his films. SEE again the interview.

To me, a sub-story in Blue is a treatise on music itself and how wonderful it must be to compose. Other things too, such as music being a greater solace, a greater stirrer of emotions than other art,

What passion cannot music raise and quell!  ~  John Dryden

than other human artefacts.  (Music is prominent in the earlier The Double Life of Veronique: the Polish Weronik, a singer; the French Veronique, a music teacher. There is the fictional composer, van den Mayer who reappears later in Red). Kieslowski himself, in the extras on this Three Colours DVD talks of his obsession with the idea that the notes are out there in the world, and so it shouldn’t be surprising (the pavement flute-player sequences in Blue reprising this from Veronique.) that the same or similar music would be sure to pop up, convergently, in different places.

Whether others might have picked up on the music the greatest of the arts theme, I don’t know. I see that if your going to leave something behind, music is a good bet. But it is more: that music is inherently more emotional than, say, art or literature. It optimally – or maximally – serves the interests of the plot in reviving the natural feelings of Julie the widow.  Perhaps others might concentrate on the music itself and the themes underlying its use in the film, such as Julie at last being able to bear to read a score her dead husband created, (at the beginning of the film she is intent on throwing his scores away) and to take up again her own creativity through it, which at the beginning seemed to unbearable because it heightened realisation of her loss.

SEE Gareth Rees in this short summary and comment on Blue.


Dan Schneider reviews Blue from a Miramax version of the set, which includes an extra not in the Artificial Eye version: comment by Kieslowski ‘expert’ Annette Insdorf.  Take to heart his remarks:

It is a very bad commentary, one of the worst I’ve heard. Like many of the worst Kieslowski critics, she expends far too much energy alternately masturbating over filmic minutia, and over-analyzing it to the point of absurdity. As example, she speaks of the blackout moments only coming to Kieslowski in the editing stage of the film, and not being in the original screenplay – an interesting observation, but goes into no greater depth as to the significance of the moments, nor how their provenance has any relation to the moments themselves. She similarly goes on and on about far too many other differences between the screenplay and the finished film, rather than detailing what is actually on-screen.

but don’t let puzzling over matters of fade to black over story line seem trivial, if that’s what you’re into.  Films like Kieslowski’s are always as much about film as a particular film: about what one sets out to achieve and the end result. Kieslowski himself often talks about this. To be honest, when seeing Julie’s first blackout – realising the face at the moment before the fade reappeared a few seconds later in exactly the same position – it was not obvious to me this represented Julie having a blackout.  I thought at first it was a devise to hold up the narrative.  (I think, but can’t be sure, having read around the film so much, that I also thought, on first viewing, this was something that came at the editing stage not in the script. This is mentioned by the French editor in the extras.)  Why Julie’s face hadn’t moved on when it came back seemed to be wrong!  Why wasn’t she a bit further on….as in when you find you have driven up to a road junction and entered the traffic, with no clear recollection afterwards of whether you looked left or right before joined the flow of traffic or how you changed the gears. If  that’s Osessive Film Minutiae Syndrome, I plead guilty.

DS also says of Insdorf:

…there is a preciousness and superficiality to the whole commentary, as if we are watching a miracle occur, rather than an explicable work of art.

{My emphasis}

Sometimes it can seem we are watching a miracle and a work of art. Sometimes neither miracles or works of art can be explained completely.


There are two distinct strand of film-watcher, those who are completely story orientated, for whom cinematography is irrelevant or of minimal interest – what did it mean, how did it say it, was it well told – and those who are interested in how film is used to do the telling, as against how prose might do it.  There is no rule you can’t combine examinining the cinematographic technique while you are understanding the story, or even watch one film in different modes at different times.


Watching Kieslowski make me wonder about whether it is possible just by watching a film, to know if it was an original script or a script based on a book.


There are novels it has proved hard or impossible to translate into film. Mann’s The Magic Mountain is often cited. There was an English language TV adaptation,  and a 1982 German effort, (IMDb) Der Zauberberg, and there are quite a few scripts that lie gathering dust. The comment in the IMDb covers the dilemma well.


In the UK, on BBC2 TV, there have been two documentaries on loss, grief and mourning: Michael Portillo’s Death of a Schoolfriend and Moran Mathew’s three-hour long The Fallen shown on Saturday 15 November 2008.  For me these are handy companion pieces to Kieslowski’s Blue.  One, because they show the different approaches to mourning and loss in documentary and fiction, and, two, the documentaries show the elements from which a director like Kieslowski could create a character like Julie.

Coincidently, Gary Findon,  Portillo’s school friend who took his own life at 15, was both a talented musician and had composed. More striking is how his teenage compositions were thought lost, possibly burnt by his father in an attempt to blot out the memory of his lost son. The scores were found by Mrs. Findon on top of a cupboard during filming. The last scene is Gary’s younger brother, a flautist, playing for the first time one of Gary’s compositions to the parents.  They have spent 35 years trying to bury Gary’s memory, but now in their later years have been able to do what Julie does in the film! There is a question, therefore, as to how Julie is able to turn her life around so quickly. Kieslowski’s answer is in the words of her dead husband’s now finished “Song for the Unification of Europe”, with words from 1 Corinthians 13, in Greek. There is an earlier scene where Julie and Olivier are collaborating on the unfinished score. She picks a  book off the shelf and shows him where the words come from: 1 Corinthians 13.

Krzysztof Kieślowski‘s film Three Colors: Blue (1993) draws many images and themes from 1 Corinthians 13, including allusions to appearances (“seeing through a glass”) and musical sounds. The Song for the Unification of Europe at the center of the story sets an abridged version of the original Greek text.

The rhythm of the Greek fits the music.

In a previous scene – Julie confronts her husband’s lover, Sandrine, who she only learns about after his death – she sees that Sandrine has learnt from him that she, Julie, is always capable of love, as in agape.

The Fallen shows a  kaleidoscope of ways in which members of the families of British soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan cope with their loss. It also shows a common thread in people not being able to forget and not being able to stop crying. Gary’s parents, too, admit on film they continued to mourn his loss, with in tears, for 35 years.



Three Colours Blue

A review by Noel Magahey, which includes three still from the Artificial Eye DVD:

(1) Julie/Binoche in swimming pool with hands over ears, to block out the sound of the music she is hearing in her head!

(2) Face of Julie/ Binoche: in the extras or elsewhere, Binoche explains that she did not think it necessary for her to be shown naked in the love scenes. Hence, here about to make love to Olivier, she is shown framed from shoulder up exactly as it is in the film.

(3) Famous sugar cube shot. In the AI extras, Kieslowki uses this shot in a master class to discuss length of shot. He explains that a normal cube might take 7 or  8 seconds to such up the coffee, so he obtained on which did it in 4 .5 seconds.  What he doesn’t say is the whole scene – cut to cut – takes about 8 seconds. This would explain why he wants only 3 or 4 seconds for the imbibition!

(4) One of the shots of a music score, showing the pin focus and blurring around as the score is scanned by the camera, so that (presumably) only the notes being ‘heard’ are in focus.

His summary: a film of great beauty – in image, in coherence of concept and in brilliance of execution. It is the work of a true and undisputed master of the cinema.

Demystifying Three Colours Blue

by Anthony Leong

A detailed  review

Kino Kieslowski

links to dissertations, article and poetry

Links to reviews from IBDb


Review Roger Ebert

Three Colors Trilogy: Blue, White, Red (1993-1994)

Review Roger Ebert

Kieslowski’s Three Colors: Blue: Not Merely An Essay On Grief

Jugu Abraham

Analysis of the opening of Kieslowski’s film, Trois Coleurs: Bleu
By Matthew Sharpe

Three Colors: Blue

A Film Review by James Berardinelli

Three Colors Blue

Review by Dan Schneider

Krzysztof Kieslowski: I’m So-So

A Film Review by James Berardinelli   (The DVD has a documentary with this title filmed by Kieslowski’s friend)

Edinburgh Film Society have reviews of Three Colours as a whole and individual reviews of each film.


What is a Plot Point?

November 17, 2008 Posted by | art, film directors, film [its techniques], Kieslowski, Music | , | Leave a comment

FILM A first viewing of Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colours Trilogy


These remarks and those in Kieslowski posts to come are best addressed to someone who has already seen the films. If you haven’t, it might be better to do so before having your viewing experience ruined by these ruminations, which let slip here and there details you might prefer to watch first.


The package came in the last post before the weekend: accidental, fortuitous, perfect timing.  When the cellophane sleeve came off and the four disks* were laid bare, it was obvious – knowing something about Three Colours – there might be a delicious prevarication (a) over whether to watch them in the order most people do and (b) one after another in quick succession or with sufficient gaps – days even – to let each one soak in.

* Number four in this Artificial Eye set includes a 1994 Documentary, I’m So-So, by Krzysztof Wierzbicki {1} {2} , in which you see Kieslowski smile. I have wanted to know if he always kept a straight face since watching the interview he gave which came with the Artificial Eye two disk set of The Double Life of Veronique: the film that was my introduction to Kieslowski. A few commenters have suggested I’m So-So doesn’t tell you much, but I think it does. If you think you might be into Kieslowski, don’t skip it.   I won’t give away what the title is about, except to say my version is “As well as can be expected under the circumstances.”


Some might chose Decalogue first, but I felt, on balance, watching the ex-Poland films first, then some of the earlier Polish stuff, might be more instructive. Maybe it doesn’t matter either way. Decalogue was, if my memory serves me well, shown on British TV some years ago, and I think I saw one or two, which I found a bit heavy going, despite Decalogue being generally considered his masterpiece. In any case,  watching Kieslowski as a film student might ( Amator next….), whether I enjoy his films is irrelevant.  And of course, it can be a pleasure to watch a film without the subject matter being pleasurable. I want to know how he made them, why he made them, what it took to do it, and why he is considered a master.


After watching Blue,  I felt it such an impressive film it would be a kind of sacrilege to watch one of the others until the buzz wore off.   In any case, thinking and reading about Blue afterwards took so much time, it was the next day before White.  Having watched White, it seemed a good idea to have kept it separate from Blue by a day. After White, which did not hold me as much as Blue,  I did not feel the same inclination to wait for Red, watching it the same evening. After Red,  I wished I had left it to another day! (For the re-match, it seems as if it might be Blue followed by Red and then White.


There are many reviews and essays on Three Colours. This by Paul Newall is good, as is Reading Three Colours:Blue by Richard Rushton in Senses of Cinema. There is long academic paper by Tammy Clewell, The Shades of Modern Mourning in Three Colours Trilogy, which is not my favourite type of reading, but there are snippets here and there on various themes within mourning, which can be useful.

Wiki:Krzysztof Kieślowski gives the background.


Sculptor: Krzysztof Bednarski


The web is full of Kieslowski, so not too many links here, for those who might be coming to him, or like me, part of the way in. later, I might add a few more if I find any particularly good ones.

Senses of Cinema: Krzysztof Kieslowski by Doug Cummings has a long profile on Kieslowski, with an annotated filmography

An interview with Kieslowski which covers Three Colours. It is not clear who the interviewer is or whether this is a transcript from a filmed interview.


After some posts on watching Three Colours a second time there will one or more on Amator, or in its English rendering, Camera Buff.  There will be a good set of links to Amator because this is a film not much watched and which few would probably chose to buy if they were collection Kieslowski: it’s considered to be a weaker specimen of the species.  I haven’t watched Amator – on its way – but in debates with others about the nature of film and in particular the ins and outs of videoing someone you know in detail, it has come up as a way of helping to examine questions such as whether making a documentary of someone is by its nature exploitative and /or manipulative. I have already posted on Operation Filmmaker, a film by Nina Davenport, but have not really exhausted my thoughts on what that film might tells us about documentary: might bring some of it into the Amator post.

November 15, 2008 Posted by | film [its techniques], Krzysztof Kieślowski | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to watch Béla Tarr’s Werkmeister Harmonies

Dan North kindly linked to my paltry effort to write about understanding film through an examination of the long take in Béla Tarr. ( I haven’t seen the films. It was just YouTube clips.)  He has written a wonderful post titled How to watch Werkmeister Harmonies in his blog Spectacular Attractions,  to which I have added ‘Béla Tarr’s’ for my post. His latest wonderfully long  post is on Tati, one of my favourites.

I’m going to tag and categorise his site here for easy access to his long film blogroll.

November 14, 2008 Posted by | BLOG FILM Spectacular Attractions, film [its techniques] | , , | Leave a comment

Documentary film “Operation Filmmaker”: Muthana Mohmed meets Antoine Doinel

Storyville ran Operation Filmmaker, a documentary by Nina Davenport on BBC4 recently. Some clips in YouTube and elsewhere. It appealed to me because it was about a young Iraqi man: I lived in Baghdad in the 1950s.

After watching Operation Filmmaker I ran through my thoughts and immediately wrote them down: on the film itself and documentary as a genre. Then I checked for information on what happened to the star of the story and started to read the reviews.

The film has been played elsewhere as can be seen from the Operation Fimmaker website, and there are many reviews which can be accessed from the site.

A review  Everything Is Deracinated: Nina Davenport’s “Operation Filmmaker” in IndieWire by Michael Koresky [June 1, 2008]

John Power’s audio review on NPR is particularly good.

An article with more of  Nina Davenport’s views:

Nina Davenport on Operation Filmmaker in The Lumiere Reader

Two interviews with Nina Davenport:

(1) The Strand Magazine (U. of Ontario)


After watching the documentrary I had an overweening desire to write to Nina to ask what she had been paid to film Muthena, whether she was paid right through to the end for her own expenses or whether it transmuted into a production company (the film goes out under her as ‘director’) which she had to finance, and how much was doled out to Muthena over the course of the film in money and kind. Near the end, just before Nina decides to cut her losses, he demands $10,000.

This makes me wonder exactly how much such a project involves. Did Muthena gradually become aware of the amounts, which made him feel he should benefit financially as well. When he does ask for his money, it did seem he was asking the question, How much do you want to make this movie? Although in the finished film Nina Davenport  is heard and even seen trying to persuade him to carry on, she already has quite enough to make a film.

In the end, being cut short before the natural ending is as good an ending as one could wish for, simply because at this length the viewer is thoroughly engaged and begins to feel there will be a finale. There is no post-script. Not a person watching this film is not expecting one which will say what happened to Muthena.

Before Nina decides to stop filming, Muthena progressively sees and asserts on camera he is being made to look bad and is not keen on being filmed any more. This is true: he is behaving badly and he is shown to be. He says he is not interested in money and wants to be a free spirit. Though he is obviously seen (and depicted) as more than half pillock*, by this stage, his demand for money did not seem unreasonable to me. He’s the star of the documentary. They are going to make money out of it, why shouldn’t he?  Why didn’t Nina or someone mollify Muthena by offering him a cut of the royalties? If you’re doing cinematographic reflexivity, then why not include the dosh side as well. Professional films are made with money and for money. The one thing that didn’t come out of the final edit was what he was learning about that side of film-making.

Indulge me. After putting aside the notions of what this documentary said to me about film, I had a sudden flash of Antoine Doinel.


Muthena Mohamed


became Antoine Doinel.  One of the great facilitators of film discussion is youtube clips! You can go off on an Antoine Doinel track right here if you wish, but please come back.

Cutting to the quick: at first Antoine came to mind, as this afterthought, through looks and mannerisms: trying to be cool and knowing but usually coming out as a bit of an arse. Running rapidly through the permutations, it seemed unlikely that Muthena knew The Adventures of Antoine Doinel” series, but it also seemed almost inconceivable Nina Davenport had not, as a film student, studied Truffaut and Godard. The end of the finished film, Operation Filmmaker – the edited film as opposed to the filmed film, perhaps – seemed to have a nouvelle vague-ish quality. Maybe every documentary since the 60s has been squeezed through the cinematographic sieve of Godard’sÀ Bout de Souffle { Film blog, Everyday Cinephile, has a great still of Belmondo and Seberg and has a good summary}. Then again, maybe because the image of Muthena as Antoine is stuck in my mind and tickles my fancy, maybe I am forcing the notion into a film which does not possess it. Or is is that all documentaries that aspire to art, become nouvelle vague documentary style by default.

It is a bit more complicated than just Muthena = Antoine. After all, Operation Filmmaker is a documentary and Trauffaut’s Antoine series are fictions (even if based on the life of Truffaut). If you know Truffaut, you know Jean-Pierre Léaud is reputed to have got a bit mixed up as to whether he was the actor Jean-Pierre Léaud or character Antoine Doinel.  Operation Filmmaker is a documentary about Muthena: there is the obvious sense that Muthena is becoming a character in a film in the documentary his is in, and he’s progressively aware of it. To me, Nina Davenport is a chronicler to start with, (In this YouTube she says she was a camera for hire) but then slowly changes into the director of the film: she is perfectly aware this is happening, as is her subject. Even the edit (wouldn’t we like to see all the video she shot….) could not disguise how much she was in the end fashioning a film, which is fascinating for someone interested in film-making.

One of the side issues is that Muthena fancies himself an actor as well as a Hollywood director. He is good at playing to the camera whether to charm or in expressing his feelings. This person almost trying to burst out of the confines of film gets built into the shooting process.

What happened to Muthana? He has a 5 year permit to stay in the UK. No news of whether he persisted in film.

*Pillock is an English English expression for “A stupid or annoying person”

November 9, 2008 Posted by | documentary, film [its techniques] | , , , , , , | Leave a comment


‘As Good as Great Poetry Gets’


Daniel Mendelsohn

New York Review of Books        November 20 2008

…..he died in the Greek Hospital in Alexandria, on April 29, 1933, his seventieth birthday: an elegant closure that is nicely suggested by what is said to have been his last act. For we are told that on one of the pieces of paper that had become his sole mode of communication, he drew a circle; and then placed a small dot in the middle of that circle. Whatever he may have meant by that glyph, certain people will recognize in it an apt symbol. It is the conventional notation, used by writers when correcting printer’s proofs, for the insertion of a period, a full stop.

November 9, 2008 Posted by | Cavafy | | Leave a comment

Three from The Atlantic

First Person Plural by Paul Bloom                The Atlantic November 2008

How We Become Who We Are by  Winifred Gallagher         The Atlantic Archive September 1994

Caring for Your Introvert by Jonathan Rausch                 The Atlantic March 2003

November 4, 2008 Posted by | introversion, multiple selves, personality | , , | Leave a comment

Abraham Lincoln: Buy one get one free

Lincoln’s Great Depression Atlantic October 2008
Joshua Wolf Shenk is the author of the forthcoming book Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness (Houghton Mifflin), from which this article is adapted

There is a review of Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer by Fred Kaplan in Washington Post (needs registering for to access) which is a companion piece to the Atlantic article.

November 3, 2008 Posted by | Abraham Lincoln | Leave a comment

Constrained language

Christian Bök, the author of Eunoia, gave a short reading on the Today programme the other day. It is the hearing as opposed to the reading, that the strangeness (and according to taste) aesthetic qualities are apparent.

BBC have a selection from each chapter. Mark Thwaite points out Eunoia is Oulipo.

The wiki:Constrained language gives a list of examples of where it is used.

November 2, 2008 Posted by | general | , , | Leave a comment