Entries tagged with “Polish cinema”.


Seeing the films of is a special experience, now, more than two decades since he stopped making films, and died soon after. The Polish director’s relative short life (he died at the age of 54) and career (less than two decases) is now turning into legend. Each of his films shows the quality and the emotion of a true master of the cinema. “The Double Life of Veronique” (or “La double vie de Véronique” in French) is one of his best known movies, made at the peak of his cinema career, between the Decalogue and the Three Colors trilogy. Somehow I missed it at release. Now, in the perspective of the life and death of the director, not only that it stays as a remarkable piece of cinema but it is enriched with new significance.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0101765

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0101765

 

Fate and identity are the two big topics of this film. Have you ever had the feeling that you are not alone or even unique in the Universe, that somewhere or maybe in some other time, a parallel destiny is shared with yours? Did you ever feel like your life is not the result of your own decisions, that higher forces manipulate you life, same as a puppeteer controls his marionettes? If you ever felt something like this or if you can understand or imagine such feelings, this story of two young women, living in two different parts of Europe, sharing talents, feelings and fate without their lives ever intersecting for more than a few seconds, this story should not seem strange at all.

Beautiful films (and books, and paintings, and musical works) have complex layers of meanings and a multitude of details that are revealed to the viewer, reader, listener. This is exactly the case with ”La double vie de Véronique”. One can use multiple keys to read the story. There is a political reading about the parallel destinies of the two women who are born and live on the two sides of the curtain that divided Europe and was just falling down by the time the film was made. There is a philosophical reading about destiny and about the controllers of the destiny (the puppeteer, the writer who creates characters and write about their destinies). There is a religious reading with multiple symbols that ask to be examined from the name of the main character to the music that is sung and played during the film.

 

(video source sexytzigane)

 

Each of the scenes includes details that support the multiple stories and have their place in it, in some cases relating to other scenes in the peer story. The only exception was the secondary thread about presumptive perjury by the French Veronique whose sense I could not decipher. Music plays an important role, as the two women are musicians, they sing and teach music that reflects their relation with fate and God. So does light, which is in some cases maneuvered by the characters. The mirrors also show up in many scenes, sometimes as a reflection of the self, in other cases as a gate to the other side, as in Lewis Carroll’s stories. Shades and mysteries follow the characters and the viewers at any corner and in any moment.

Kieslowski’s mastering of the art of cinema is matched by the superb acting of . She is strange and beautiful, sensitive and expressive. I can also wonder why her star paled after Kieslowski stopped making films, and why other film directors could not make better use of her beauty and talent. She is part of the same generation of French and French-speaking actresses as for example, but their post 1995 careers were so different. What a pity.

I am happy to have discovered “La double vie de Véronique”, even if so late. It’s a film to see and see again.

It’s very difficult to say Farewell. It’s very difficult to make a Farewell movie. I do not know if  knew that ‘Afterimage‘ was to be his last movie. He undertook and involved himself in this film with the same passion, rigor and attention to the detail, with the same mastering of the art and science of film-making as ever. He also did not abandon the major theme of his cinema – the history of Poland seen as a subset of the history of Europe and of all mankind, and as a collection of the stories of the men who made it.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5186236/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5186236/

 

There is one major difference though. Many of his previous films focused on political characters, they were about men who changed history, about victors at least at the historical scale – Danton, Walesa – even if they sometime paid with their lives. The hero of this film, the avant-garde Polish artist Wladyslaw Strzeminski was defeated by history, and the film is the story of his defeat, of his physical but also moral decay. It’s a story quite typical about the manner Communist dictatorships in Eastern Europe treated their artists, and even if I did not know anything about him before this movie, his story was well known to me as the same fate (or worse in some cases) was imposed on artists who did not compromise in Romania where I was born and I lived half of my life. We see him at the beginning admired and valued as a teacher and artist, he also was a companion of modernist artists who were associated with the Russian revolution, but this did not help him either. He was not an anti-Communist, but he valued true art, could not accept enrollment of art as a tool for propaganda and the norms of the dogmatic ‘realism’, and his refusal to compromise cost him his teaching position, his membership in the artist’s union, the very possibility of painting. The humiliating tentative to find a way to survive had no chance, the regime was still in the Stalinist period and crushed all opponents according to the principle ‘the one who is not with us is against us’. Even the help and support of a handful of students who stood by their beloved teacher and mentor could not save him.

 

(video source Orzeł Biały)

 

The lead role is played with a lot of restraint and dignity by , his flame is interior, he shows the artist far from being a flawless person, actually sharing some of the guilt of not being able to maintain his family and especially help his teen daughter (exceptional acting of 14 years old ). There are many very well constructed scenes, some of them full with details bringing back to life with controlled anger that dark period of transformation, when Poland and Eastern Europe were postponing hope for a few decades and were transitioning from one nightmare to another.  Wajda’s last film is not a testament, it’s an integral part of his opus of work.