Blind Chance Review
A young man, Witek Dlugosh (Buguslaw Linda) runs to catch a train which is just leaving the station platform. He catches it and pulls himself aboard at the last moment. But what would have happened if he had missed the train? Blind Chance looks at three different scenarios, three ways in which Witek’s life might have played out differently.
In each timeline, Witek’s nature is consistent. A medical student, he wants to help people, but who can know the best way of doing that? It is down to fate to push opportunities in his direction. Catching the train he meets a man who helps him get introduced to Communist Party officials, abandons his medical career and hopes to improve people’s lives by trying to influence the political situation from within. Missing the train and getting into a scuffle with a station guard pushes his life in a different direction, where he tries to resist the political rule in an underground movement and places his faith in God. In a third possibility where he misses the train, he meets a former medical student, gets happily married and returns to his medical studies – taking neither side in the political situation, directly helping individuals rather than making a universal difference.
In each possible situation he meets different women from his past, meaning that even his love life is also directed by what fate has placed before him – all stemming from a simple situation where he either catches or misses a train. Fate, while it plays an important part in the direction his life takes, does not necessarily change a person’s character. Witek remains intrinsically the same person yet in adapting to each situation he couldn’t be more different – being either a Comminist Offical or an underground anti-party activist. Kieslowski’s great trick is to make each of these possible outcomes perfectly natural and believable eventualities. The director’s other great achievement with the film is that he doesn’t make one outcome more beneficial or ideal than another. Just as one timeline seems the best direction for Witek’s life to take, another twist of fate is thrown his way.
Does fate direct our lives or do we have freewill to make our own choices? This is the theme explored in Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Blind Chance, a subject that he would return to in part in No End (1985), La Double Vie de Véronique (1991) and Three Colours Red (1995). All of those films however are rather lyrical in their fantastical content and none them are as clear or as precise in their focus as Blind Chance, a film whose bold, inventive structure and challenging, questioning subject would prove an important influence on European cinema and bring the director himself to a new and wider audience.
Being centred around the political situation in Poland during the late 70's can make the film a bit difficult and it does sometimes distract viewers from what the film is all about. Blind Chance is not a political film – although Kieslowski did have problems with the censors (the film, made in 1981 wasn’t shown until 1987) he wasn’t particularly bothered by cuts that were requested, because they were nothing to do with the point he was making. It’s about making a choice – being true to oneself and one’s nature while adapting to whatever situation presents itself. “Everything is important except politics” Kieslowski once said and that is illustrated here. Witek can work for the Communist Party or work against them and it doesn’t matter – it’s not about which side fate or an accident of birth places you on – it’s what you do when you are there that counts.
The picture quality is one of the best of the Artificial Eye Kieslowski releases, which is particularly pleasing for what is considered to be the best of Kieslowski’s Polish films. The image is clear and sharp, colour tones are cool, but accurate and there is an excellent level of detail throughout. There are one or two minor marks including one bad scratch-line – but as this occurs during one short scene, it appears to be on the negative. One or two other scenes exhibit slight colour fluctuation, but again, this would seem to be down to the original elements, not the transfer. I also noticed one sharp cut in the middle of a scene. Otherwise there is very little noticeable grain and the image quality is about as good as it should be.
There is little to note about the soundtrack. The original mono track is channelled through as Dolby Digital 2.0 and is relatively clear throughout. I didn’t notice any problems here whatsoever.
Subtitles are fine, clear and readable. One or two phrases that look to be relevant are left untranslated for some reason. I don’t know why they were omitted or whether they are important or not.
Annette Insdorf Introduction (09:58)
This is much too long for an introduction and as it basically examines the entire film from the first scene to the last, you will want to leave it until after you have seen the film. However, as with all Annette Insdorf’s Kieslowski features, it is informative and thorough in examining the film’s themes, structure and influence.
Irena Strazakowska Interview (20:41)
From Kieslowski’s production company, Irena Strazakowska talks in detail about the difficulties the director had complying with travel restrictions and censorship of his work. She offers an interesting insight into a personal side of the director that few people would know of and some thoughts on Blind Chance and other Kieslowski films presented at Cannes.
Agnieska Holland Interview (05:21)
Holland saw a rough-cut of Blind Chance early on which she felt didn’t work at all. Incredibly Kieslowski re-shot most of the film in a matter of a few weeks to obtain the present version.
Workshop Exercises (12:05)
Directed not by Kieslowski, but by a colleague at the Documentary Film Studio, Marcel Lozinski, and photographed by regular Kieslowski cinematographer Jacek Petrycki, Workshop Exercises is a clever little film playing with themes that would be familiar to anyone who has seen Kieslowski’s documentary and film work – the nature of accurately capturing reality on film and how it can be manipulated. On the surface a vox-pop asking people on the street what they think of the youth of today, the film edits and overdubs to present different versions of the same material.
A full filmography is provided, covering Kieslowski’s short films, documentaries, TV work and feature films.
The influence of Blind Chance is apparent in films such as Peter Howitt’s lightweight treatment of the theme in Sliding Doors (1998) and in the rather more kinetic Run Lola Run (1998) by German director TomTykwer, who would go on to direct Heaven (2002), a Kieslowski script filmed posthumously after the director’s death in 1996. Kieslowski himself would use many of the devices he tried out here in his Dekalog series – characters from different stories crossing paths in different circumstances, in La Double Vie de Véronique, where two young women, one in Poland and one in France, pursue very different lifestyles, and at the end of his Three Colours Trilogy where fate, circumstance and accident draw the characters from each of the three films to a surprising finale. Blind Chance was where several Kieslowskian techniques and themes were first explored and the effect is just as powerful. The Artificial Eye release of Blind Chance, like all their other Kieslowski releases, is exemplary in terms of quality, presentation and extra features.