thecompletepodcast

The Complete Kieślowski 13 – Dekalog 9 & 10

To close out our 6-part miniseries covering the individual episodes of the Dekalog, Matt and Travis welcome Daisuke Beppu, who hosts a wonderful YouTube channel covering the Criterion Collection and other film and home media topics. We discuss episodes 9 and 10 of the series, which stand out in distinctive ways. For episode 9, we discuss the powerful depiction of a relationship on the ropes and the film’s influence on Kieślowski’s later work, while our discussion of episode 10 covers the value of the film’s offbeat humor and emotional depiction of two brothers finding each other as the final story in the series.

We hope you enjoy the discussion!

The Complete Kieślowski 12 – Dekalog 7 & 8

For part 5 of our 6-part miniseries on Kieślowski’s monumental Dekalog television series, Matt and Travis welcome friend of the show and chief admin of the Criterion Considered group on Facebook Tim Leggoe. We discuss the next two episodes in the Dekalog, 7 and 8, which both focus on a pair of female characters and their trials and tribulations. We discuss the structure of the films, their placement in the context of the series, and the critical response to each, which is more mixed than perhaps any other episodes in the series.

We hope you enjoy the discussion!

The Complete Kieślowski 11 – Dekalog 6 & A Short Film About Love

Matt and Travis are joined by David Blakeslee of the invaluable Criterion Reflections podcast to discuss the second Dekalog episode that was expanded into a feature, episode six, which would be titled A Short Film About Love in its feature version. We discuss the morally sticky nature of both the story and the film itself, a portrait of a young man invading a woman’s private space and her complex and emotional response to the discovery of what’s happening.

This is the fourth part of our six part series covering the Dekalog, we hope you enjoy!

The Complete Kieślowski 10 – Dekalog 5 & A Short Film About Killing

Matt and Travis welcome Cole Roulain, cohost of The Magic Lantern podcast and cohoncho of The 25th Frame, to discuss the fifth episode of Dekalog and the first to be adapted into a feature-length film. The episode is a significant departure from the family dramas and moral dilemmas of the first four episodes in the series, and we discuss the similarities and differences here while delving into the intense emotional experience of this particular story.

When Kieślowski began preparing to shoot Dekalog, he realized he needed more money than Polish Television had given him to fully realize his vision. The director decided to take the project to the film production board and offered to expand two or three episodes into feature length films they could release in theaters. As part of the deal, he allowed them to pick one of the episodes (they picked six, which we’ll cover on the next episode) while he picked the other: episode five, about a killing and a subsequent state-sponsored killing. Because of this unique structure, we have decided to discuss the two versions of these episodes in sequential order rather than covering episodes 5 and 6 and doing separate feature episodes on the films. We hope you enjoy the discussion, and please keep in mind that the two pieces are different and should both be viewed before listening!

The Complete Kieślowski 9 – Dekalog 3 and 4

Matt and Travis move on to parts 3 and 4 of Kieślowski’s epic television series Dekalog and bring on Keith Enright of the now defunct Criterion Completion website and pod-on-permanent-hiatus. This is part 2 of our 6-part series on the anthology film that catapulted Kieślowski into international fame.

Unlike the gut-punch of the first film and the expressionistic depiction of emotional turmoil in the second, these films are hyper-focused on the internal complexity of the characters actions and emotions in situations they largely thrust upon themselves to exorcise complicated and unexplored feelings. This unspoken complexity makes these two of the most difficult to discuss in the series, but we had a great time recording the discussion and we hope you enjoy it as well.

The Complete Kieślowski 8 – Dekalog 1 and 2

Matt and Travis are excited to kick off our first multi-part series on one work: Kieślowski’s legendary Dekalog television miniseries. For the first episode, we welcome Josh Hornbeck, host of the forthcoming Criterion Channel Surfing podcast, to discuss the first two episodes in the series.

Initially intended to be directed by separate up-and-coming directors through Kieślowski’s production studio, the Dekalog was fully filmed by the director after he became attached to the material through writing the scripts. He did employ different cinematographers on nearly every episode, however, and we discuss the strikingly different look of these first two films, along with the complex moral and philosophical questions raised by each. Dekalog was a massive leap for Kieślowski both in terms of artistic expression and international acclaim. These first two episodes start off with an emotionally powerful one-two punch, packed with complex symbolism and incredibly sophisticated interwoven thematic motifs, making this episode a real pleasure to record. We hope you enjoy part 1 of 6 on this towering work of cinema.

The Complete Kieślowski 7 – No End

Matt and Travis welcome Caitlin, the host of Her Head in Films, to discuss Kieślowski’s final film before creating the internationally acclaimed Dekalog series for Television, 1985’s No End. Released in the wake of a two-year period of martial law in Poland that marked the end of the Solidarity breakthroughs of 1980-81, the film was largely panned by the political establishment and resistance in equal measure, though Polish audiences who were able to see the movie (despite marketing sabotage designed to limit its success) responded enthusiastically to its depiction of the national state of affairs.

No End is notably different from Kieślowski’s previous films in a number of apparent ways: this is his first female protagonist, the only movie so far to feature supernatural elements on screen (rather than conceptually supernatural structures as in Blind Chance), and his most mournful and defeated tone. But it is also a departure behind the scenes, as the director began working with his two most significant collaborators here: Krzysztof Piesiewicz, a lawyer he met while filming a never-completed documentary would go on to co-write all of his subsequent films, and Zbigniew Preisner, the composer who would score them all. Their effects on the director’s work are already apparent here, but they would fully blossom in the decade to come.

The Complete Kieślowski 6 – Blind Chance

Matt and Travis are joined by Martin Kessler of Flixwise and Flixwise Canada to discuss Kieślowski’s shelved 1981 theatrical feature Blind Chance. Like Short Working Day, Blind Chance was never shown publicly before being withheld from circulation, a victim of the crackdown that culminated in martial law at the end of 1981. Only after Kieślowski gained international recognition in 1987 was the film released in the West in censored form. Finally, the censored content was almost entirely restored in home video with the release of the film on blu-ray from the Criterion Collection.

Blind Chance announces its departure from Kieślowski’s previous films in in the first ten minutes, where he plays with time and memories and uses more composed images with evolving perspectives under classical compositions. These are all elements that Kieślowski will return to later in his career, when he fully sheds his documentary background and embraces a controlled metaphysical style. Yet the director is still focused on Polish politics and the landscape of his country and how it impacts the average (young male) citizen. In this episode, we discuss this hinge in his career, along with the high concept of the film and how it informs his chief concerns of the personal vs. the collective and questions of freedom and control/destiny.

The Complete Kieślowski 5 – Short Working Day

Matt and Travis welcome Matt Schlee from Cineccentric to discuss the fifth feature in Kieślowski’s filmography, Short Working Day.

In 1981, Kieślowski made two films that would be immediately shelved and go unreleased for years: the theatrical feature Blind Chance (which was also censored even its eventually released version) and the made-for-Television feature Short Working Day. The latter film would be shown sporadically in clubs or special screenings, but Kieślowski himself prevented its release even after the fall of Communism, and the film wasn’t shown on television as was originally intended until after his death in 1996.

The airdate was 20 years after the central event upon which Short Working Day was based took place, the 1976 workers’ revolt in Radom, Poland, following a government announcement that food prices would be nearly doubled across Poland. The politically charged subject matter makes the film’s shelving seem almost preordained, but Kieślowski himself ended up unhappy with the results, feeling that people would get an unintended message from his film if it were shown in wide release; he also found it be, similar to The Scar, poorly directed and acted and generally useless. We disagree, however, and try to make this case that far from being a blight on Kieślowski’s catalog, Short Working Day represents another key building block in his career.

The Complete Kieślowski 4 – Camera Buff

Matt and Travis welcome Will Remmers to the show to discuss Kieślowski’s second theatrical feature and four feature overall, 1979’s Camera Buff. After The Calm was shelved, Kieślowski carried on with his documentary work, producing I Don’t Know (which he voluntarily shelved to protect the subject), From a Night Porter’s Point of View, and Seven Women of Different Ages. The latter two are only 15 minutes, but I Don’t Know is essentially a 45-minute monologue from a former Party official who had his life destroyed when he tried to clear out corruption at a glove factory. The film is hugely illuminating in the context of Kieślowski’s 70s narrative work, and it can be found on this wonderful compilation of Kieślowski’s documentary work, which is a must own for any fan of his films.

As for Camera Buff, the film picks up where The Calm left off, a Jerzy Stuhr plays a man who has fulfilled his dream of a wife, a house, a television, and now a daughter, born at the beginning of the film. But this domestic bliss is interrupted immediately when he buys a camera to document his daughter’s life and quickly becomes obsessed with the device, much to his wife’s chagrin.

This discussion will contain spoilers after the first thirty minutes or so, and the film will be available when the Criterion Channel launches in early April.