Wednesday, December 2, 2015

#772: Blind Chance

(Krzysztof Kieślowski, 1981)

Blind Chance is a very enjoyable movie and it's well made if a tad dated. But what ultimately makes it essential viewing is that it is in many ways a dry run for the rest of Kieślowski's career, most notably his masterpiece, The Three Colors Trilogy. But the film's use of alternate realities recalls his great film The Double Life of Veronique, while the issues of moral obligation and politics call to mind the Decalogue - encompassing nearly all of his late-career output. The three projects can be seen as their own alternate paths taken from this seminal moment, and many of the grand ideas of those films - from issues of identity and personal responsibility to social protest and the unavoidable fact that we are all in this together - are explored here first.

The movie opens in an immediately gripping but untethered manner, as we are treated to a clue of the final reveal, followed by brief flashes of the protagonist as he grows up. I went into the movie cold, so I didn't know the significance of the train station scene until the film doubled back to it. In fact, for the first hour I wasn't quite sure I knew what was going on, though as is usually the case I eventually realized I'd been following it all along. This can sometimes make for a stressful viewing, but here it felt like part of the fun as so much of what is appealing about the movie is how out of control Witek is.

Despite really enjoying the film, I don't think it approaches its follow-ups in terms of standing on its own as a major cinematic work. Each subsequent iteration of Witek's journey seems less developed, and I found the relationship in each to be a bit overplotted and awkward. The final moment was also a tad predictable, even if (or more likely because) it made total sense within the context of the film. But there are also real philosophical questions explored here, and I found some of the narrative choices to be interesting if a bit heavy handed. This is especially true when looking at the overarching message of the film, which is that Witek would have survived had he picked a side, and remaining neutral - which might bring him happiness - would mean his certain downfall. Perhaps because Kieślowski abandoned specific political issues (to a certain degree) in his later films he was able to free himself of such obvious metaphors, and I think his later films are much better for it.

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