Kieślowski an unforgettable documentary filmmaker
Before gaining international recognition as the author of Dekalog and the Three Colours trilogy, for the first three decades of his professional life Krzysztof Kieślowski was an outstanding documentary maker. Twenty years after the death of that great director we received a collection of his digitally remastered documentaries, produced at the Documentary Film Studio in Warsaw.
Kieślowski’s early work is not only a haunting collection of personal portrayals, but most of all a strong social commentary, which is still worryingly current.
The collection shows the extraordinary transformation of the director, from his graduation film Z miasta Łodzi (From the City of Lodz) to 1980’s Gadające głowy (Talking Heads). The artist’s great maturity at the very start of his career is fascinating. By watching his development through the subsequent productions from time to time we can catch motifs which quickly became embedded in his feature films. It is a wonderful journey in time which allows us to look at Kieślowski from a completely new perspective.
Already in his graduation work Z miasta Łodzi (From the City of Lodz) Kieślowski set the foundations for his work with documentaries, which he developed over subsequent years. In his films one will not find any deception or attempts to bend the reality to suit his own needs. At the same time he is not afraid to fictionalise his stories, so that, based on real-life events, he can build intense, emotional stories about people just like us. Kieślowski later used that sensitivity to the human condition and ability to accurately observe the world in his feature films.
His departure from documentaries towards feature films in the following years resulted in an increase of metaphysical motifs in his work. Kieślowski started from posing uneasy moral questions which people have to face on a daily basis to finally create his own unique world, resembling a carefully produced painting, which met with a great reception by international audiences. Still today he is one of the best recognised Polish film directors in the world, even though it has been over 20 years since his death.  
Kieślowski. Documentary Maker
DVD 1:
1. Z miasta Łodzi (From the City of Lodz)
2. Byłem żołnierzem (I was a Soldier)
3. Fabryka (Factory)
4. Przed rajdem (Before the Rally)
5. Robotnicy 1971: Nic o nas bez nas (Workers ‘71: Nothing About Us Without Us)
6. Refren (Refrain)
7. Murarz (The Bricklayer)
8. Prześwietlenie (X-Ray)
DVD 2:
1. Życiorys (Curriculum Vitae)
2. Szpital (Hospital)
3. Klaps (Clapperboard)
4. Nie wiem (I Don’t Know)
5. Z punktu widzenia nocnego portiera (From a Night Porter’s Point of View)
6. Siedem kobiet w różnym wieku (Seven Women of Different Ages)
7. Dworzec (Railway Station)
8. Gadające głowy (Talking Heads)
1969: Z miasta Łodzi / From the City of Łódź
This graduation film produced under the artistic supervision of Kazimierz Karabasz is a portrayal of the city where Kieślowski spent five years of his studies. This colourful urban mix includes the tired faces of Łodź textile workers, cheerful strollers on a Sunday afternoon, a mandolin orchestra, as well as the residents of old tenement houses and new estates.
The ordinary, extraordinary life.
1970: Byłem żołnierzem  / I Was A Soldier
A memorial of the war, which again shows the tragedy of an individual. The director presents soldiers who lost their sight at WW2 frontlines. He asks them to talk about their experiences, unfulfilled plans and dreams.
1970: Fabryka / The Factory
One day in the life of the “Ursus” tractor factory. Mundane work, production team meetings, bureaucracy, awful work organisation, hopelessness and a lack of prospects – that could have been any other factory in Poland, any other work place in the 70’s.
1971: Przed rajdem / Before the Rally
It may seem that this film is completely different from Kieślowski’s other work. We see Ryszard Komornicki preparing for the Monte Carlo Rally. In reality, this is another depiction of a fight, a struggle with problematic reality and technological defects of the Polish Fiat, all the way to the finale, sadly without a happy end.
1971: Robotnicy '71: nic o nas , bez nas / Workers ‘71. Nothing About Us Without Us
The film was never distributed in its initial form. Honest conversations with workers from different corners of Poland, their pessimistic statements, contradicting the propaganda of success from Gierek’s times did not have a chance to reach a wide audience. After being heavily cut by the censorship office, a section called Gospodarze (The Hosts) found its way to TV against the authors’ will.
1972: Refren / Refrain
People may think that their problems are over for good after they die. They could not be more wrong, the absurd bureaucratic machine catches up with us even when our dead bodies have gone completely stiff. The director shows the operations of a funeral home, keeping a distance and adding a large dose of irony, as only through that treatment we are able to swallow this bitter pill.
1973: Murarz / Bricklayer
Another documentary which debuted many years after being made. A bitter story about a formerly active party member and Stakhanovite, who after many years of disappointments with the situation in the country resigns from his membership in the party and leaves office work behind to go back to pure, unspoiled by politics construction work.
1974: Prześwietlenie / X-Ray
A somewhat biographical story, which takes place at a sanatorium in Sokołowsko, Lower Silesia.
Kieślowski himself and his father were admitted there at some point. This is not Ciechocinek. Kieślowski shows patients fighting tuberculosis, dreaming of a normal life, complaining about their health, scared of what the future may bring.
1975: Życiorys / Curriculum Vitae
This staged film is certainly a departure from the director’s earlier works. It is based on an idea by
Maciej Malicki and genuine documents from the Provincial Party Control Commission at the Polish United Workers’ Party (PZPR). One of the comrades is subjected to brutal ostracism by his colleagues. They can see everything: controversial private life, reprehensible idealistic attitude, suspicious behaviour at work – it is all subjected to merciless judgment. The film was later adapted into a theatrical play, performed at Stary Theatre in Karków.
1976: Szpital / Hospital
This documentary is a must for all doctors and medicine students. Kieślowski shows a brief summary of the extensive work performed by the A&E team from the Traumatic Surgery Ward at the hospital in Barska Street in Warsaw. There is no place where the curious camera would not go. On the one hand, we see suffering patients and on the other underpaid, exhausted medical staff struggling with a lack of specialised equipment, and even basic equipment, who treat their profession as a calling despite a multitude of problems they face every day.
1976: Klaps / Clapperboard
The director felt such a strong need to record documentaries that he even made one at the set of his cinematic debut in feature film, Blizna (The Scar).
This time the main character was not a human being, but a wooden board known at the film set as a clapperboard. From the clapperboard’s perspective we can see the individual stages of film production.
1976: Nie wiem  / I Don’t Know
One more moving story of the “man vs. reality” type, this time taking place in Lower Silesia. We see a gloom story of a man who decided to fight the party clique. In this unfair fight, he loses his job, health and family. But he does not give up and tries to rebuild his life, as it later turns out, with varying degrees of success.
1977: Z punktu widzenia nocnego portiera / From a Night Porter’s Point of View
A completely timeless film, in which still today we can find representations of people we have all met at some point in our lives. We meet a factory porter, overcome with an obsession to impose discipline and punish any violations. His role as a guard gives him power, which he uses ruthlessly, harassing people even outside work. On the one hand we are fascinated to watch this portrayal of a psychopath and on the other we feel anxious as we read the political connotations.
1978: Siedem kobiet w różnym wieku / Seven Women of Different Ages
The life of a ballet dancer is like the life of a butterfly, short and elusive. Based on the stories of several characters, Kieślowski reflects on the dramatic issue of fading away, as it happens in a magical, ethereal, theatrical scenery.
1980: Dworzec / Station
A portrayal of the Central Station before renovations. A massive investment project versus ordinary reality. It was a difficult film for the artist, mainly because as a result of an intervention by the enforcement agency, part of the material recorded was confiscated.
1980: Gadające głowy / Talking Heads
This film from 1979 is probably Kieślowski’s best-known documentary. A sequel was produced many years later by a different director. In the film we can see a cross-section of the Polish society. Forty-four Poles aged between seven and one hundred stand before the camera to answer three, seemingly simple questions: When were you born? Who are you? What do you want (from life)? On the eve of a great social revolution, we see people who are tired of the setup and who long for freedom, justice and tolerance. We also see a unique representation of human needs and dreams as they change with age and experience.