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Krzysztof Kieslowski, "Double life of Veronique"

Yesterday's entry ended without completing the point--one of my friends told me, "what a hell?" so I try to continue a bit more for picking up some movies by Kieslowski.


The reason why I mentioned to read about my past entry about Daniel Libeskind and his project, "Jewish Museum," is that I wanted to tell a larger theme, which leads to the same position. A worn out words, such as "connection" or "relationship" should be reinterpreted once again to think not just about their meaning, but how they should be used and what they really mean to us when we use them.

I quote a paragraph here.

"Any dialectic description of history is derived only by abandoning the 'externality/objectivity' distinctive to historicism. Historical Materialists have to eliminate the epical aspect of a history. History is the object to be reconstructed for historical materialists, but the project space is not a vacant timeline, but it is forming a definitive period, a definite life, and a definitive piece of work. Historical materialists abstract a time period by blowing up a "historical sequency" in a material world, and by doing so, they abstract a life from a time period, and a piece of work from a lifelong work. However, the accomplishment of this reconstruction is achieved only when a lifelong work is held within a piece of work, a time period is held within a lifelong work, a course of history is held in a time period."
Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.

What I have been trying to say is concentrated in this short paragraph. The architecture of "monogatari=mono+gatari" by Libeskind's projects, (a japanese word "monogatari" is made up of two chinese characters, mono=an object and ga(ka)tari=telling a story--here I am making up a new word with a new meaning, "a story telling through an object) or the hidden matters under the shadow of "ruins," and the "reproduction of a story and a matter" by the reconstructing, reproducting, reassembling fragment of time periods through a film media--these are all the results of recollecting the notion of "connection" and "relationship" through imagining, reconstructing, and reassembling with your own spirit. In other words, it is to get out from the viewpoint of a bystander. Only by experiencing the difficulty and the pain of reproducing through your spirit, the process and the activities "connect" the people, the past, today, and the future get "related" to become a culture that communicates and carry down even the intangible material. I hope to believe that such culture has a broad range of continuous flow to accept us all. And I imagine that we can find the place to return and sail off.


There is a movie by Kieslowski, titled as "Double life of Veronique." I read a criticism about this movie saying "a preposterous fantasy," without seeing the depth and the meaning of details, which actually made me think further about this movie, about Kieslowski, about Poland, about culture, etc.

It is a story about two "Veronique" who were both born on the same day in different places, who were named the same, who look almost exactlly the same, who live in Paris and Warsaw now. Although they were born in different places with completely different background, they have similarities and somehow they believe in the existence of other self. As they grow up, they begin to feel the existence of other self, and after an accidental rendezvous with each other, the lives of two begin to dramatically change--it is an allegorical story.

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The movie presents the calmness of traditional Europe, with some fantastical scenes. Veronique in Poland has some problem in her health, but she has a beautiful singing voice. She belongs to a female choir, and she is selected as a solo vocal to perform in a concert with an orchestra.
Velonique in Paris teaches music in an elementally school but she always feels somewhat empty. One day, she meets with a mysterious man who performed a puppet play at school. He is a creator of an illustrated book, and also a puppet artisan who creates a puppet for his own puppet play.
I stop here about the story and the background....This movie makes me feel that something important is being lost, but at the same time that something eixists quietly in the atmospher, like an invisible air. Both sensations seem to be mixed and coexisting.

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In Warsaw--Veronique is in a train car. She noticed that the passing outside scenery is distorted at the uneven surface of the window. An old cathedral in a distance is slowly crossing in her view with that distortion effect. Then she turns her eyes to the side of a camera, as if she realized with a gaze of someone--it might suggests that she knows the existence of other self in a different world.
She takes out a sphere plastic ball and look through the scenery. A town view looks upside-down in the ball, distorted by the sphere as if it is captured into the ball. This scene makes me feel that the long history of Europe reappear in my eyes like a scroll picture, and the townscape hiding such history behind seemed to be realized inside of my mind. Or, the world seen through and captured in the sphere is the metaphor of the different world where the other Veronique lives, and the sphere connects the two different world of Veroniques'.

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The cinematographer of this movie creating the warm, fantastical, beautiful visual images is Slawomir Idziak who often worked together with Kieslowski. He also shot "Short film about killing" with Kieslowski. The lighting of those two movies are controlled dramatically with filters, but he produced a warm, sepia space in "Double life~," and a harshly contrasting shadowy lighting that is overcasting the space in "Short film~," which are completely different. He later shot "Blackhawk Down" with Ridly Scott, with the popular washed off silver finish with satulated colors and strong contrast--his cinematography might have influence to produce such visual.

And the scene that those two accidentally meet. The movie is set up in 1968, when the storm of student movement is active also in Poland. An open square is filled with rioting young people--within the uproaring atmosphere, Veronique of Poland found Veronique of Paris in a car, as Veronique of Paris was visiting Warsaw. Veronique of Paris is taking photos of this square filled with students and does not notice with another Veronique.
The scene captures the dramatic moment of the period like a documentally film, as Kieslowski inserted the accidental (or not) encounter of the two. The quiet flow of time over the depth of European history suddenly crosses with the dramatic condition of today's society--this is a very keen illustration of what Europe is.
Veronique of Paris later finds somebody in photos, who looks very alike, or who is identical to her.

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In Kieslowski movies, something seemingly accidental or something seemingly detached but actually connected--relates each other to tell a whole story. It is required to keep connecting the gap between the viewpoint of the camera and the object/subject, and to to do so, editing and reconstructing the bits and pieces of stories and images has to be done carefully. That is not just for the creator, but it is also asked for the audience's side. As I have been always saying, what it means to see, feel, think, recognize, has to be reinterpreted by the audience to elevate it to your own experience, as a media like movie often tends to prevent from feeling and thinking by a overtalking, crafty story line.
The way someone dealt with this movie through the words "a preposterous fantasy" might have come from the mind that looks down upon this movie by staying securely at the position of a bystander. This is not just for watching a movie, but what we can see in this attitude is the lack of imagination to relate what we see and what the subject really is. What Banjamin tried to describ by the words 'externality' or 'objectivity' can be reinterpreted that being in and keeping such secure position reflects the luck of initiative and voluntary involvement by passively receiving what is presented. A word 'fantasy' suggests the mind that settles for his narrowed standard of judgement, or a denial to understand something beyond his awareness standard---this reveals the "obviation principle."
What was the actual reason for wanting to create a film, or to watch a movie? Is a movie media getting more like an automatic and stereotyped stimulant, just allowing the passive acceptance of a ready-made products with a priscription of "how to enjoy this movie?"

I want to mention a theme that Kieslowski repeatedly used throughout his movies.
There is a repeated scene that an old lady is walking on the street in shaky feet, and a camera (the viewpoint of the audience) follows her from distance. In "Double life of Veronique," Veronique found an old lady carrying a heavy bags full of daily on the street visible from her room. That old lady and Veronique has nothing to do with each other as a stranger, and the distance of two seems to be so very far away. Veronique calls on her that she would help from the window, but that lady doesn't hear and notice.
There is a similar scene in "Rouge" of the series "Tricolor," (acted also by Irene Jacob) that an old lady is trying to push an empty bottle into a litter box, which is too high for elders. Those old ladies are described as socially vulnerable people who are often overlooked, or left without help. In this case in "Rouge," Valentine ( main character performed by Jacob) helps that old lady. The bystander viewpoint of the camera suddenly nears to that lady by shifting to the mind of Valentine, and the distance is voluntary narrowed with a new connection and relationship.
By weaving those small scenes, those scattered pieces gradually form a whole picture of this world knitted by a universal humane theme. Or in other worlds, we should naturally realize this world is the gathering of each individual piece of an invisible and consequential story produced by each of us.

The posthumous work of Kieslowski, three series movies of "Tricolor," are also the stories of people who are connected by a subtle bonds. Beyond the time and places, various relationships begin to get realized and colored by stories. (I would write about these movies later)
At the end of the last movie of the three, "Rouge," all the main characters of "Tricolor" series get together in a fateful consequence. It is easy to call it as a play of a movie making--but I want to think this scene is the farewell message by Kieslowski who decide to end his film career with this series, speaking about his anchanged idea for the consequence of our existence in this world. Spiritual relief and rejoice--in Rouge, an aged man tired for life is relieved and saved by fiinding a joy in his mind once again as he noticed with a connection to outside world. He sheds tears for himself, and for someone, which he had forgotten to do. And that tears, are exactly the tears of Kieslowski himself. The last quiet tears for the life and this world--I also wanted to accept it in my own rejoice to this world.
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Poland, of Wajda and Kieslowski

On March 13, 1996, one of the most prominent Polish film directer Krzysztof Kieslowski died--it has been just 10 years since then. He tried to see the reality of Poland, its culture, its history through those ordinally people with ordinally lives--and made us relize with the universal reason for life and our existence. Yet, the particular history of Poland made me think of someone like Kieslowski, or Andrzej Wajda who produced those films that tell us what Poland really is.

--I've learned that "Poland" means a "flat land." In the long history of Europe, this small country has been destined to go through harsh histories, as the naturally defenseless flat land had allowed other countries to invade the land. In that sense, Poland reflects the virtuality of the concept of borders. In 19th century, this country was divided into pieces by the interference of those powering European countries Russia, Prussia, and Austria. Once again, Poland dissapeared from the map of Europe, and it existed only through an ethnic identity with an intangible cultures and language without a homeland.

In "Ashes and Diamonds," filmed by a Polish film directer Andrzej Wajda, there is a scene that Polish people dance "Military Polonaise" of Chopin on the day when Poland was freed from Nazi dominance. This is a memorable scene to reflect the suffering of Poland throughout its history and longing for the independence and freedom.

I would start from Chopin, then.
Frederic Chopin was born in a small town ?elazowa Wola, Poland in 1810. In 1830 when he was 20 years old, he left to Vienna for concert tour, but just one month after he had left, the historical "November Uprise" against the dominance of Russia in Warsaw. It failed to succeed and the opportunity to achieve independence was lost completely. It is famous that Chopin seeded to compose "Revolution Etude" (Etude No.12 in c minor, Op.10) after hearing this tragic news. He could no longer be able to return to his home country, and he never did until his death at 39--his sorrow and loneliness is strongly reflected in his life and music.

Poland was freed to be independent again by the defeat of Germany in World War I and Russian Revolution, but it was once again invaded by Germany and Soviet Union after the beginning of Word War II. Under the Nazi control, Polish government exiled to London, and the Polish culture was suppressed and destroyed. Of course, the symbol of Polish culture, Polonaise--a nobility dance--was not allowed to be played and danced.

Nazi and Soviet executed to erase their ethic identity, too, with Holocaust, Auschwitz, Majdanek, (Poland was a country with multiple ethnic races at that time--people were forced to eliminate each other race during the war--even harsher to kill your neighbor) and Zbrodnia katy?ska (4000 Polish army officers were found dead at katy?ska, Russia in 1943--it was unclear whether that was executed by Nazi or Soviet Union, but after the Cold War, the investigation found it was done by Soviet with more than 25,000 executions without trials, and more incidents similar to this were found--over 50,000 polish army captives were shot to death) The Warsaw uprise at the end of the war in August, 1944 lasted 63 days with the loss of 200,000 lives. (filmed by Wajda as "Kanal") The population of Warsaw was decreased to 150,000 from 1,500,000 before the war.


To be honest, it is too overwhelming to really imagine the severity and harshness of such history beyond my ability to imagine. What I can do is to make myself aware of the various emotions film at the scene of the Polonaise dance. Yet, the power of a culture accumulated till this moment---here it is the music of Chopin, Polonaise dance, and this media of film and movie--is bold and strong to be shared by all of us human beings. People in the scene danced the noble and graceful Polonaise that symbolized the pride of their identity and culture, with the lost souls of resistance against the absurdity.
It tells us that "Poland" was the invisible tie of shared culture and people, and although it kept going through the tough time under the influence of Soviet Union, Poland gradually united tighter and stronger, as described by the activities of Mi?dzyzak?adowy Komitet Strajkowy, the Strike Coordination Committee.

Kieslowski and Wajda continued to capture the reality of Poland under communism frame. The film by Kieslowski that I introduced earlier, "A short film about killing," describes that a mind of a youth is distorted by a society, and the society eliminates the distortion in the name of justice.

However, what they really and always wanted to show is the meaning of the existence of ourselves, and the meaning of our relationship, the connection to the world and people. The invisible tie among us reappears with a coincidence and consequence of an encounter, which becomes the reason for our existence. (In Chinese character, the words "human beings" are written in two characters, "man" and "between") That is the foundation of a culture, a nation, an ideology, an identity---and the various stories of each of us. Poland was their field and background of their own stories, and they kept capturing those through their films.

I wanted to write more about Kieslowski, but I will continue in next entry. I want to mention other past entries, especially the one I wrote about an architect, Daniel Libeskind.
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上記広告は1ヶ月以上更新のないブログに表示されています。新しい記事を書くことで広告を消せます。