"Every person wants to change the world when they start doing anything. I don't think I counted on being able to change the world in a literal sense. I thought it would be possible to describe this world." *

He was born on 27 June 1947 in Warsaw. Shortly after his birth, he contracted a lung disease and was a frequent patient at sanatoriums during his early years. After finishing primary school in Mieroszów, he planned to abandon further education and become a smoker. Eventually, at his parents' insistence, he enrolled at the Secondary School of Theatre Technology in Warsaw, where his uncle was the director. During his studies, he worked as a dresser for celebrities of the Polish theatre of the time, including Aleksander Bardini and Tadeusz Łomnicki. He decided to study film directing at the Łódź Film School, to which he was admitted at the third attempt. At the School, he made his first documentary etudes, including Tram - under the supervision of Wanda Jakubowska and The Office under the supervision of Kazimierz Karabasz. In 1969, Kieślowski made his diploma film - From the City of Łódź. After graduation, until 1983 he was associated with the Warsaw Documentary Film Studio. Here he made most of his documentaries, including Fabryka (The Factory), dealing with the working conditions of workers at the Ursus tractor factory, and Byłem żołnierzem (I was a Soldier), showing veterans of 2nd World War who lost their eyesight as a result of military operations. At the same time, he made the film Robotnicy '71 (Workers '71), which was censored and released under the name Gospodarze (Hosts) because of the statements made in the film, which were unfavourable to the authorities at the time. In 1973 he made his first feature film, Przejście podziemne (Underground Passage), in which the main roles were played by Teresa Budzisz-Krzyżanowska and Andrzej Seweryn.  His personal experience of working in the theatre inspired the script for his first feature film Personnel, in which the young Juliusz Machulski plays the role of a newly hired cutter in an opera house tailor's workshop.

A breakthrough for Kieślowski's career turned out to be the film Amator, with an unforgettable role by Jerzy Stuhr. The film, included by critics in the current of cinema of moral anxiety, received many favourable reviews and awards, both in Poland and abroad. From 1981 comes Przypadek (A case), in which Kieslowski shows three different versions of the main character's fate, depending on whether he manages to get on the train or not. Years later, Przypadek would become a cult film.

Kieślowski's long-standing collaboration with Krzysztof Piesiewicz, which lasted almost until his death, resulted in the creation of a series of films loosely based on the Ten Commandments, The Decalogue. Two of them in particular, A Short Film About Love and A Short Film About Killing, brought the Kieślowski/Piesiewicz duo international recognition.

After the success of The Decalogue, Italian producer Leonardo da Fuente proposed to Polish filmmakers that they make a Polish-French co-production. It was from The Double Life of Véronique that Kieślowski showed a new style of his films - more aesthetic, with cinematography emphasising the beauty of the protagonist, with a clear dominance of colour. The next stage of Kieslowski's collaboration with Piesiewicz was the years of work on the Polish-French-Swiss co-production Three Colours: Blue, White, Red. The trilogy referred to the three colours of the French flag and to the slogans preached during the French Revolution: liberty equality, fraternity. Each film tells an independent story, but the main characters of all parts come together in the final scene of Red. The trilogy divided critics, which did not prevent it from winning a number of major awards: Blue received the Golden Lion at Venice and three Cesars, White received the Silver Bear for direction at the Berlin International Film Festival. Most controversial was Red, which was completely ignored at the Cannes Film Festival and, despite a triple Oscar nomination (in the categories for best director, screenplay and cinematography), did not win a single statuette.

Although the embittered director announced the end of his career, at the request of French producer Marin Karmitz and again in collaboration with Piesiewicz, he began writing scripts for a new trilogy, which was to consist of the films Heaven, Hell and Purgatory. However, work was interrupted by the sudden death of the director.

Kieślowski received dozens of awards and prizes for his filmmaking, and was the winner of the ‘Felix’ - the European Film Academy Award. He taught directing and screenwriting at universities in Katowice (1979-82), Berlin (1984), Helsinki (1988), as well as in Switzerland (1985, 1988, 1992) and Łódź (1993-96). In 1990 he was made an honorary member of the British Film Institute for his ‘outstanding creative contribution to moving image culture’. In 1995 he became a member of the Film Academy in the USA. He died on 13 March 1996 in a Warsaw hospital after heart surgery.

Photo: Wojciech Druszcz/Reporter/East News

* https://culture.pl/pl/tworca/krzysztof-kieslowski

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