Posted by: burusi | 15/05/2010

Krzysztof Kieslowski – Interview

კშიშტოფ კესლევსკი

კშიშტოფ კესლევსკი – Krzysztof Kieslowski

Interview

Q: Why were you interested in the French motto: Liberty, equality, fraternity?

KK: Precisely for the same reason that I was interested in “Decalogue.” In ten phrases, the ten commandments express the essential of life. And these three words — liberty, equality, and fraternity — do just as much. Millions of people have died for those ideals. We decided to see how these ideals are realized practically and what they mean today.

Q: So what interests you is life. Is this why you left your first job as a designer to go to school in Lodz and specialize in documentaries?

KK: I wanted to describe the world at the same time, through image, express what I felt. It was the time of the great documentary filmmakers: Richard Leacock, Joris Ivens. Today, television has put an end to this type of filmmaking. The television industry doesn’t like to see the compexity of the world. It prefers simple reporting, with simple ideas: this is white, that’s black; this is good, that’s bad…

Q: How did you conceive the films in relation to each other?

KK: We looked very closely at the three ideas, how they functioned in everyday life, but from an individual’s point of view. These ideas are contradictory with human nature. When you deal with them practically, you do not know how to live with them. Do people really want liberty, equality, fraternity? Is it not some manner of speaking? We always take the individual, personal point of view.

Q: So you turned to fiction — yet you stick very close to real life.

KK: I think life is more intelligent than literature. And working so long in documentaries became both a blessing and an obstacle in my work. In a documentary, the script is just to point you in a certain direction. One never knows how a story is going to unfold. And during the shoot, the point is to get as much material as possible. It’s in the editing that a documentary takes place. Today, I think I still work in the same way.
What I shoot isn’t really the story — the footage just contains the elements that will make up the story. While shooting, details which weren’t in the script are often thrown in. And during the editing process a lot is cut out.

Q: If you took this way of thinking far enough, don’t you think you might end up using scripts merely as pretexts?

KK: No, not at all. Absolutely not. For me the script is key because it’s the means to communicating with the people I work with. It may be the skeleton, but it is the indispensable foundation. Later, many things can be changed: Certain ideas may be eliminated, the end may become the beginning, but what’s between the lines, all the ideas — that stays the same.

Q: You call yourself an artisan, as opposed to an artist. Why?

KK: Real artists find answers. The knowledge of the artisan is within the confines of his skills. For example, I know a lot about lenses, about the editing room. I know what the different buttons on the camera are for. I know more or less how to use a microphone. I know all that, but that’s not real knowledge. Real knowledge is knowing how to live, why we live… things like that.

Q: Did you shoot the films seperately, with an interval between them?

KK: We started with “Blue” and shot from September to November 1992. On the last day, we started “White” because in the courtroom scene, you see the characters from both films together. As it is very difficult to shoot in a courtroom in Paris, since we had the permit, we took advantage of it; we immediately shot about 30% of “White” because the first part takes place in Paris. Then we left for Poland to finish it. After ten days of rest, we went to Geneva to start “Red” which was shot in Switzerland from March to May 1993.

Q: Was the screenplay of the three films fully written?

KK: It was completed well before the first day of shooting, six months before. You cannot forget the scouting for locations which takes time. You have to think in terms of 100 sequences, three countries and three different directors of photography. You have to organize and prepare in order to arrive at what was agreed with the producer.

Q: Did you have the same crew on all three films?

KK: The directors of photography were different: Slawomir Idziak for “Blue,” Edward Kojinski for “White” ( he worked several times with Andrzej Wajda) and Piotr Sobocinski, who is young but very talented, for “Red.” The others, for sound, set design, and music are the same. It worked well for “The Decalogue” so we kept the same principle.

Q: Did you start editing before having completed shooting three films?

KK: Yes, I was editing during the shooting from the first week. I even edited during the breaks.

Q: The more concrete and tangible your films are, the more metaphysical they seem to become. You take more and more close-ups, you’re ever nearer to the characters and objects: you seem to be searching for something beyond the concrete or the physical.

KK: Of course I’d like to get beyond the concrete. But it’s really difficult. Very difficult.

Q: What is it you’re trying to capture?

KK: Perhaps the soul. In any case, a truth which I myself haven’t found. Maybe time that flees and can never be caught.

Q: Do the names of the characters have a particular meaning?

KK: I tried to think of names which would be both easy for the audience to remember and reflective of the character’s personalities. In real life, there are names that surprise us because they don’t seem to suit the
person at all.

Q: For “The Double Life Of Veronique” — did you have Veronique from the Gospel in mind?

KK: Later on I did, but not when I chose the name, and although it had been unconscious, it seemed like a good association to have made. For “Red,” I asked Irene Jacob what her favorite name was as a little girl. At the time, it was “Valentine.” So, I named her character Valentine. For “White,” I named the hero Karol (Charlie in Polish) as a tribute to Chaplin. This little man, who is both naive and shrewd, has a “chaplinesque” side to him.

Q: “The Decalogue” was full of chance meetings — some of them failures and some successful. And in “Three Colors”, from one film to another, people seem to run into each other.

KK: I like chance meetings – life is full of them. Everyday, without realizing it, I pass people whom I should know. At this moment, in this cafe, we’re sitting next to strangers. Everyone will get up, leave, and go on their own way. And they’ll never meet again. And if they do, they won’t realize that it’s not for the first time.

In the trilogy, these encounters have less importance than in “A Short Film About Killing” in which the fact that the future killer and the lawyer fail to meet each other is key. In the trilogy, they’re included mainly for the pleasure of some cinephiles who like to find points of reference from one film to another. It’s like a game for them.

Q: Each film has a scene with an elderly person trying to put the bottle in the trash can. What does this mean?

KK: I merely thought that old age awaits all of us and that one day we won’t have enough strength left to put a bottle in a container. In “Blue,” to avoid having this scene seem moralistic, I over-exposed the image. I figured that this way Julie doesn’t see the woman, and doesn’t realize what lies ahead for herself. She’s too young. She doesn’t know that one day she’s going to need someone’s help. In “White” Karol smiles because he realizes this is the one person worse off than he is. In “Red” we see something about Valentine’s compassion.

Q: Valentine knows the price of fraternity and Julie will learn to love again. The same can be said for Karol and Dominique. Even when you’re talking about liberty and fraternity, love is the final word.

KK: To tell you the truth, in my work, love is always in opposition to the elements. It creates dilemmas. It brings in suffering. We can’t live with it, and we can’t live without it. You’ll rarely find a happy ending in my work.

Q: Yet the screenplay for “Red” seems to say that you believe in fraternity. And the end of “Blue” is optimistic since Julie is able to cry.

KK: You think so? For me optimism is two lovers walking into the sunset arm in arm. Or maybe into the sunrise — whatever appeals to you. But if you find “Blue” optimistic, then why not? Paradoxically, I think the real happy ending is in “White” which is, nevertheless, a black comedy.

Q: A man who goes to visit his wife in prison. You call that a happy ending?

KK: But they love each other! Would you rather have the story finish with him in Warsaw and her in Paris – with both of them free but not in love?

Q: The theme of equality is not, at first glance, very obvious in “White.”

KK: It can be found in different areas: between husband and wife, at the level of ambitions and in the realm of finance. “White” is more about inequality than equality.

In Poland we say “Everyone wants to be more equal than everyone else.” It’s practically a proverb. And it shows that equality is impossible: it’s contradictory to human nature. Hence, the failure of Communism. But it’s a pretty word and every effort must be made to help bring equality about… keeping in mind that we won’t achieve it — fortunately. Because genuine equality leads to set-ups like concentration camps.

Q: You’ve lived in France for a year now. Has the experience modified your notion of liberty — hence the tenor of “Blue?”

KK: No, because this film, like the other two, has nothing to do with politics. I’m talking about interior liberty. If I had wanted to talk about exterior liberty — liberty of movement — I would have chosen Poland. Since things obviously haven’t changed there. Let’s take some stupid examples. With your passport, you can go to America. I can’t. With a French salary you can buy a plane ticket to Poland, but this would be impossible vice-versa. But interior liberty is universal.

Q: “Blue” seems like a continuation of “The Double Life of Veronique,” which itself picks up on an element from “Decalogue 9” (the cardiac singer). We could go on and on… Each film seems to give you a rough outline for another film.

KK: Of course, because I’m always shooting the same film! There’s nothing original in that though. All filmmakers do the same, and authors are always writing the same book. I’m not talking about “professionals,” I mean authors. Careful, I said authors, not artists.

Q: Each color is shot in a different country. Was this out of duty to the European film industry?

KK: The idea of a European film industry is completely artificial. There are good and bad films: that’s it. Take “Red” — we filmed in Switzerland for economic reasons — Switzerland is co-producing. But it’s not only that. We started thinking… Where would a story like “Red” take place? We thought of England, then Italy. Then we decided that Switzerland was perfect, mainly because it’s a country that wants to stay a bit off-center. The proof is the referendum concerning its connection to Europe. Switzerland leans towards isolation. It’s an island in the middle of Europe. And “Red” is a story of isolation.

Q: Is it difficult to shoot in France without speaking the language?

KK: Of course, but I have no choice. Here I get financing. In other places, I don’t. At the same time, it’s more interesting than working somewhere I know too well. It enriches my perspective. I’m discovering a world that’s so different, a language that’s so complicated and rich! This is shown when I suggest – in Polish of course — a slight change in the dialogue. Everyone comes back at me, in France, with suggestions for twenty ways to change it.

Q: You’ve created a European symphony during your three shoots…

KK: As you may have gathered, we speak French, English, Polish, and German. We’ve created an atmosphere in which everyone is comfortable. I have no problem being with people of different nationalities.

Q: Do you feel European?

KK: No. I feel Polish. More specifically, I feel like I’m from the tiny village in the Northeast of Poland where I have a house and where I love to spend time. But I don’t work there. I cut wood.


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