Krzysztof Kieslowski

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Krzysztof Kieślowski

Krzysztof Kieślowski (June 27, 1941, WarsawMarch 13, 1996, Warsaw) was an influential Polish film director and screenwriter, known internationally for his film cycles Three Colors and The Decalogue.


Early life

Kieślowski was born in Warsaw, Poland, and grew up in several small towns. At sixteen, he briefly attended a firemen's training school, but dropped out after three months. Without any career goals, he then entered the College for Theatre Technicians in Warsaw because it was run by a relative. He decided to become a theatre director, but at the time there was no specific training program for directors, so he chose to study film as an intermediate step.

Leaving college and working as a theatrical tailor, Kieślowski applied to the Łódź Film School and was rejected twice. To avoid compulsory military service during this time, he briefly became an art student, and also went on a drastic diet in an attempt to make himself medically unfit for service. After several months of successfully avoiding the draft, he was accepted to the Łódź Film School on his third attempt.

He attended from 1964 to 1968, during a period in which the government allowed a relatively high degree of artistic freedom at the school. Kieślowski quickly lost his interest in theatre and decided to make documentary films.


Kieślowski's early documentaries focused on the everyday lives of city dwellers, workers, and soldiers. Though he was not an overtly political filmmaker, he soon found that attempting to depict Polish life accurately brought him into conflict with the authorities. His television film Workers '71, which showed workers discussing the reasons for the mass strikes of 1970, was only shown in a drastically censored form.

After Workers '71, he turned his eye on the authorities themselves in Curriculum Vitae, a film that combined documentary footage of Politburo meetings with a fictional story about a man under scrutiny by the officials. Though Kieślowski believed the film's message was anti-authoritarian, he was criticized by his colleagues for cooperating with the government in its production.

Kieślowski later said that he abandoned documentary filmmaking due to two experiences: the censorship of Workers '71, which caused him to doubt whether truth could be told literally under an authoritarian regime, and an incident during the filming of Station (1981) in which some of his footage was nearly used as evidence in a criminal case. He decided that fiction not only allowed more artistic freedom, but could portray everyday life more truthfully.

Polish feature films

His first non-documentary feature, Personnel (1975), was made for television and won him first prize at the Mannheim Film Festival. Both Personnel and his next feature, The Scar, were works of social realism with large casts: Personnel was about technicians working on a stage production, based on his early college experience, and The Scar showed the upheaval of a small town by a poorly-planned industrial project. These films were shot in a documentary style with many nonprofessional actors; like his earlier films, they portrayed everyday life under the weight of a flawed system, but without overt commentary.

Camera Buff (1979) (which won the grand prize at the Moscow International Film Festival) and Blind Chance (1981) continued along similar lines, but focused more on the ethical choices faced by a single character rather than a community. During this period, Kieślowski was considered part of a loose movement with other Polish directors of the time, including Janusz Kijowski, Andrzej Wajda, and Agnieszka Holland, called the Cinema of Moral Anxiety. His links with these directors (Holland in particular) caused some raised eyebrows within the Polish government, and each of his early films was subjected to censorship and enforced re-shooting/re-editing, if not banned outright (Blind Chance was not released domestically until 1987, almost six years after it was completed).

No End (1984) was perhaps his most clearly political film, depicting political trials in Poland during martial law, from the unusual point of view of a lawyer's ghost and his widow. It was harshly criticized by both the government and dissidents. Starting with No End, Kieślowski's career was closely associated with two regular collaborators, the screenwriter Krzysztof Piesiewicz and the composer Zbigniew Preisner. Piesiewicz was a trial lawyer whom Kieślowski met while researching political trials under martial law for a planned documentary on the subject; Piesiewicz co-wrote the screenplays for all of Kieślowski's subsequent films. Preisner provided the musical score for No End and most of the subsequent films; the score often plays a prominent part in Kieślowski's films and many of Preisner's pieces are referred to within the films themselves. In these cases, they are usually discussed by the films' characters as being the work of the (fictional) Dutch composer van den Budenmayer.

The Decalogue (1988), a series of ten short films set in a Warsaw tower block, each nominally based on one of the Ten Commandments, was created for Polish television with funding from West Germany; it is now one of the most critically acclaimed film cycles of all time. Co-written by Kieślowski and Piesiewicz, the ten hour-long episodes had originally been intended for ten different directors, but Kieślowski found himself unable to relinquish control over the project; in the end, each episode featured a different director of photography. Episodes five and six were also filmed in longer feature-length versions, and released internationally as A Short Film About Killing and A Short Film About Love respectively. Kieślowski had also planned to shoot a full-length version of Episode 9 under the title A Short Film About Jealousy, but exhaustion eventually prevented him from making what would have been his thirteenth film in less than a year.

Foreign productions

Kieślowski's last four films were foreign co-productions, made mainly with money from France and in particular producer Marin Karmitz. These focused on moral and metaphysical issues along similar lines to The Decalogue and Blind Chance but on a more abstract level, with smaller casts, more internal stories, and less interest in communities. Poland appeared in these films mostly through the eyes of European outsiders. The four films were his most commercially successful by some distance.

The first of these was La double vie de Véronique (The Double Life of Véronique) (1990), starring Irene Jacob. The relative commercial success of this film allowed Kieślowski the opportunity to raise the funding for his amibitious final films, the trilogy Three Colors (Blue, White, Red), his most acclaimed works next to The Decalogue and his first international commercial successes.

Death and legacy

Krzysztof Kieślowski died on March 13, 1996 during open-heart surgery following a heart attack, and was interred in Powazki Cemetery, Warsaw, Poland. Situation of his grave: on entering by the main entrance turn right and you will see his grave a short distance in, off the path to the right (very close to the perimeter wall). The grave has a sculpture of the thumb and forefingers of two hands forming an oblong—the classic view as if through a movie camera.

The small sculpture is in black marble on a pedestal slightly over a meter tall. The slab with Kieślowski's name and dates lies below.

Years after his death, he remains one of Europe's most influential directors, his works the study of film classes at universities throughout the world. The 1993 book Kieślowski on Kieślowski describes his life and work in his own words, based on interviews by Danusia Stok. He is also the subject of a biographical film, Krzysztof Kieślowski: I'm So-So (1995), directed by Krzysztof Wierzbicki.

Though he had claimed to be retiring after Three Colors, at the time of his death Kieślowski was working on a new trilogy co-written with Piesiewicz, consisting of Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory and inspired by Dante's La commedia. As was originally intended for the Decalogue, the scripts were ostensibly intended to be given to other directors for filming, but Kieślowski's untimely death means it is unknown whether he might have broken his self-imposed retirement to direct the trilogy himself. The only completed screenplay, Heaven, was filmed by Tom Tykwer and released in 2002 at the Toronto International Film Festival. The other two scripts existed only as thirty-page treatments at the time of Kieślowski's death; Piesiewicz has since completed these screenplays, with Hell - directed by Bosnian director Danis Tanovic and starring Emmanuelle Beart - being released in 2005.

The Polish actor-director Jerzy Stuhr, who starred in several Kieślowski films and co-wrote the script for Camera Buff, filmed his own adaptation of an unfilmed Kieślowski script as Big Animal (Duze zwierze) in 2002.


Documentaries/short subjects

  • From the City of Łódź (Z miasta Łodzi) (1969)
  • I Was a Soldier (Byłem żołnierzem) (1970)
  • Workers '71: Nothing About Us Without Us (Robotnicy '71: Nic o nas bez nas) (1971)
  • Pedestrian Subway (Przejście podziemne) (1973)
  • First Love (Pierwsza miłość) (1974)
  • Curriculum Vitae (Życiorys) (1975)
  • Hospital (Szpital) (1976)
  • The Calm (Spokój) (1976)
  • I Don't Know (Nie wiem) (1977)
  • From a Night Porter's Point of View (Z punktu widzenia nocnego portiera) (1978)
  • Station (Dworzec) (1981)
  • Short Working Day (Krótki dzień pracy) (1981)



  • Amiel, Vincent. (1995). Kieslowski. Paris: Editions Payot and Rivages. ISBN 2869309929
  • Andrew, Geoff. (1998). The Three Colours trilogy. London: BFI Publishing. ISBN 0851705693
  • Attolini, Vito. (1998). Krzysztof Kieslowski. Taranto: Barbieri. ISBN 8886187343
  • Bleeckere, Sylvian de. (1994). Levenswaarden en levensverhalen: een studie van de decaloog van Kieslowski. Leuven: Acco. ISBN 9033428520
  • Campan, Veronique. (1993). Dix breves histoires d'image: le Decalogue de Krzysztof Kieslowski. Paris: Presses de la Sorbonne nouvelle. ISBN 2878540417
  • Coates, Paul. (1999). Lucid Dreams: The Films of Krzysztof Kieslowski. Wiltshire: Flicks Books. ISBN 0948911638
  • Dalla Rosa, Richard. (2003). La fascination des doubles: selon La double vie de Veronique de Krzysztof Kieslowski. Sarreguemines: Edition Pierron. ISBN 2708503073
  • Dzieko'nska, El'zbieta. (2002). The best of all worlds: public, personal and inner realms in the films of Krzysztof Kieślowski. London: University of London (PhD Thesis).
  • Enser, Martha. (1995). Krzysztof Kieslowski: das Gesamtwerk. Wien: Universtat Diplomarbeit.
  • Erbstein, Monika. Untersuchungen zur Filmsprache im Werk von Kryzstof Kieslowski. Alfeld: Coppi Verlag. ISBN 3930258579
  • Esteve, Michel, ed. (1994). Krzysztof Kieslowski. Paris: Lettres Modernes. ISBN 2256909344
  • Franca, Andrea. (1996). Cinema em azul, branco e vermelo: a trilogia de Kieslowski. Rio de Janerio: Sette Letras. ISBN 8585625511
  • Fritz, Heiko. (2004). Was von der DDR bleibt oder die produzierte Geschichte mit einem Blick auf das filmwerk von Krzysztof Kieslowski. Oldenberg: Igel Verlag. ISBN 3896211781
  • Furdal, Malgorzata, ed. (2001). Remembering Krzysztof: il cinema di Kieslowski. Udine: Centro espressioni cinematografiche; Pordenone: Cinemazero.
  • Furdal, Malgorzata, Turigliatto, Roberto, eds. (1989). Kieslowski. Torino: Museo nazionale del cinema.
  • Garbowski, Christopher. (1996). Krzysztof Kieslowski's Decalogue series: the problem of the protagonists and their self-transcendence. Boulder: East European Monographs. ISBN 0880333499
  • Haltof, Marek. (2004). The cinema of Krzysztof Kieslowski: variations on destiny and chance. London: Wallflower Press. ISBN 1903364922 (hbk) ISBN 1903364914 (pbk)
  • Insdorf, A. (2002). Double lives, second chances: the cinema of Krzysztof Kieslowski. New York: Hyperion Miramax Books. ISBN 0786884746
  • Jazdon, Mikolaj. (2002). Dokumenty Kieślowskiego. Pozna'n: Wydawnictwo Pozna'nskie. ISBN 8371770227
  • Kickasola, Joe. (2004). The films of Krzysztof Kieslowski. London: Continuum. ISBN 082641558X (hbk) ISBN 0826415598 (pbk)
  • Kieślowski, Krzysztof. (1998). Przypadek i inne teksty. Krak'ow: Znak. ISBN 8370067026
  • Kieślowski, Krzystof. Piesiewicz, Krzystof. (1999). Raj, czy'sciec, pieklo: [three novels in one case]. Warsaw: Skorpion. ISBN 8386466308 (vol 1) ISBN 8386466316 (vol 2) ISBN 8386466324 (vol 3)
  • Kieslowski, Krzystof. Piesiewicz, Krzystof. (1991). The decalogue: the ten commandments [screenplays]. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 0571144985
  • Kieslowski, Krzystof. Piesiewicz, Krzystof. (1998). Three colours trilogy [screenplays]. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 0571178928
  • Lagorio, Gina. (1992). Il decalogo di Kieslowski: ricreazione narritiva. Casale Monferrato: Piemme. ISBN 8838416346
  • Lesch, Walter. Loretan, Matthias, et al. (1993). Das Gewicht der Gebote und die Moglichkeiten der Kunst: Krzysztof Kieślowskis Dekalog Filme als ethische Modelle. Freiburg, Schweis: Universitatsverlag; Freiburg: Herder. ISBN 3727809108 (Univerlag) ISBN 3451232758 (Herder)
  • Lubelski, Tadeusz, ed. (1997). Kino Krzysztofa Kieślowskiego. Krak'ow: Universitas. ISBN 8370529267
  • Murri, Serafino. (1996). Krzysztof Kieslowski. Milan: Il Castoro. ISBN 8880330616
  • Rimini, Stefania. (2000). L'etica dello sguardo : introduzione al cinema di Krzysztof Kieslowski. Napoli: Liguori. ISBN 8820729962
  • Ripa di Meana, Gabriella. (1998). La morale dell'altro: scritti sull'inconscio dal Decalogo di Kieslowski. Firenze: Liberal libri. ISBN 8882700097
  • Rodriguez Chico, Julio. (2004). Azul, Blanco, Rojo : Kieslowski en busca de la libertad y el amor. Madrid: Ediciones Internacionales Universitarias. ISBN 848469111X
  • Simonigh, Chiara. (2000). La danza dei miseri destini: il Decalogo di Krzyzstof Kieślowski. Torino: Testo and immagine. ISBN 888649890X
  • Spadaro, Antonio. (1999). Lo sguardo presente : una lettura teologica di "Breve film sull'amore" di K. Kieslowski. Rimini: Guaraldi. ISBN 8880491660
  • Stok, Danusia, ed. (1993). Kieślowski on Kieślowski. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 0571173284
  • Termine, Laborio. (2002). Immagine e rappresentazione. Torino: Testo and immagine. ISBN 8883820819
  • Wach, Margarete. (2000). Krzysztof Kieslowski: kino der moralischen Unruhe. Koln: KIM; Marburg: Schuren. ISBN 3934311067 (KIM) ISBN 3894723602 (Schuren)
  • Wilson, Emma. (2000). Memory and survival: the French cinema of Krzysztof Kieślowski. Oxford: Legenda. ISBN 1900755270
  • Wizner, Dariusz. (2002). Stile cinematografico di Krzysztof Kieslowski. Roma: Universita Pontificia Salesiana. Thesis.
  • Wollermann, Tobias. (2002). Zur musik in der Drei Farben: triologie von Krzysztof Kieslowski. Osnabruk: Epos Musik. ISBN 3923486383
  • Zawiśli'nski, Stanislaw, ed. (1996). Kieślowski: album pod redakcja Stanislawa Zawiśli'nskiego; teksty [by] Krzysztof Kieślowski ...[et al]. Warsaw: Skorpion. ISBN 8386466111
  • Zizek, Slavoj. (2001). The fright of real tears: Krzysztof Kieślowski between theory and post-theory. London: BFI Publishing. ISBN 0851707556 (hbk) ISBN 0851707548 (pbk)

External links

Template:Livedde:Krzysztof Kieślowski es:Krzysztof Kieślowski fr:Krzysztof Kieslowski it:Krzysztof Kieślowski nl:Krzysztof Kieslowski pl:Krzysztof Kieślowski sv:Krzysztof Kieslowski zh:克日什托夫·基斯洛夫斯基


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