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 Post subject: Timeframe and communism
PostPosted: Mon Sep 19, 2016 4:18 pm 
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So while looking into the air history of the Dekalog, I suddenly became rather confused. You see, the series is alternately listed as having aired its first episode around Christmas '89 and then airing the other nine commandments starting in May of 1990 (as listed here) or as having all first aired in 1988.

The discrepancy here is rather relevant, as 1989 was a pretty massive year for democracy (or at the very least, a very bad year for communism) all-around, but especially in Poland, where the liberal labor union achieved a victory over the state party in the 1989 elections and basically spelled the end of communism in Poland.

Would you say (and this is addressed at snipeypants) that communism hangs over the films and that I'm too dense to get it? I know basically nothing about Eastern Europe (I only know about the elections because they took place on the same day as Tianenmen Square)

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 Post subject: Re: Timeframe and communism
PostPosted: Tue Sep 20, 2016 10:45 am 
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There are two concerns about defining "the year" of Dekalog. The first is that information was simply extremely scant outside of Poland despite Kielowski's international appeal exploding with The Double Life of Veronique, and even then Dekalog itself didn't gain that much attention until the DVD releases and the popularisation of online use. Due to little information on its broadcasting history, it often gets filed as 1988 (such as on the spine of the new Criterion release) because that's when the production started. Which brings me onto point two.

The other issue is that Dekalog is far more likely to be dicussed in film circles than that of television. Now I'm possibly letting a pet peeve get the better of me, but I never think of Dekalog as one film nor ten films. It's an anthology TV series, and if it's not then the definition is meaningless. Kieslowski and Preisner come from a film background (and maybe Piesiewicz for co-authorship of No End), but most of the cast and crew were TV personnel, and I think if Kieslowski had carried out his original plan to assign each episode to different directors (contemporaries included Wajda, Zulawski*, Skolimowski, etc) it'd still be primarily referred to as a TV series. Anyway, the point! is that film types will align a film to its production year(s) rather than the release, and quite rightly too because films hardly ever open everywhere simultaneously, especially when you factor in festivals, censorships, box office appeal, etc (otherwise, an American could conceivably declare Dekalog the best film of 2000).

In any case, the broadcast details do seem to be correct with your enquiry: "I" in December 1989 and the rest followed on a weekly basis from the 11th of May 1990. Kieslowski on Kieslowski clarifies that filming started in late 1988 and took eleven months all told, even when certain scenes of up to three episodes were shot in a single day for budgetary and location reasons. As I mentioned in my review for "X", there's a satisfying sense of payoff for being made in tandem with the real-life events rocking the Warsaw Pact, as that episode (it's a black comedy) operates as a culmination of the traces of hope offered at the end of each previous installment and concerns vulture capitalism in the prospect of freer markets.

Communism as a theme doesn't hang terribly heavily over the series as Kieslowski often claimed politics had very little to do with philosophy, emotion or the whys and wherefores of our personal lives, and he was often censored whenever he tried to tackle the subject head-on (Blind Chance was banned for the best part of a decade and Camera Buff is rather autobiographical).

In other news, this is released next month:

Image

*Christ, I didn't know he died this year. RIP.


Last edited by guttersnipe on Tue Sep 20, 2016 2:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Timeframe and communism
PostPosted: Tue Sep 20, 2016 11:28 am 
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guttersnipe wrote:

The other issue is that Dekalog is far more likely to be dicussed in film circles than that of television. Now I'm possible letting a pet peeve get the better of me, but I never think of Dekalog as one film nor ten films. It's an anthology TV series, and if it's not then the definition is meaningless.


I think it is most definitely both an anthology TV series and a series of ten films. It fits both criteria rather easily. However I suppose the fact that it was actually made for television probably leans it closer to television if we had to choose one designation for some reason.

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 Post subject: Re: Timeframe and communism
PostPosted: Tue Sep 20, 2016 2:32 pm 
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Yeah, that's the most telling factor. Aside from the regular broadcasting schedule, the consistency of runtime, presentation of credits, etc, it was made for television, in an existing mould (Kieslowski refers to it as a cycle rather than an anthology, but vagaries of translation and all that). If it doesn't fit the anthology template like a glove then a lot of TV series are actually strings of short films.

Here's a statement on Bosc's question:
Krzysztof Kieslowski wrote:
We knew from the very beginning that the films would be contemporary. For a while, we considered setting them in the world of politics but, by the mid-1980s, politics had ceased to interest us.

During martial law, I realised that politics aren't really important. In a way, of course, they define where we are and what we're allowed or aren't allowed to do, but they don't solve the really important human questions. They're not in a position to do anything about or to answer any of our essential, fundamental human and humanistic questions. In fact, it doesn't matter whether you live in a Communist country or a prosperous capitalist one as far as such questions are concerned, questions like What is the true meaning of life? Why get up in the morning? Politics don't answer that.

Even when my films were about people involved in politics, I always tried to find out what sort of people they were. The political environment only formed a background. Even the short documentary films were always about people, about what they're like. Politics were never the subject.
Though, it's worth pointing out that Dutch filmmaker Cyrus Frisch recently claimed that A Short Film About Killing/Dekalog "V" was instrumental in Poland's abolition of the death penalty. Something of a happy accident right there.


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 Post subject: Re: Timeframe and communism
PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2016 3:03 pm 
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guttersnipe wrote:
Yeah, that's the most telling factor. Aside from the regular broadcasting schedule, the consistency of runtime, presentation of credits, etc, it was made for television, in an existing mould (Kieslowski refers to it as a cycle rather than an anthology, but vagaries of translation and all that). If it doesn't fit the anthology template like a glove then a lot of TV series are actually strings of short films.
.



Speaking of the debated titling distinction, I found this today, interestingly, it seems Kiesolowski considered them films, and not a tv series.

Image

He then went on to add he considered them, as you previously mentioned, a "cycle". I have no idea what that even means.

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 Post subject: Re: Timeframe and communism
PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2016 1:29 am 
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One of the great things about a Kieslowski interview is his belligerence (in fact, that was the first comment I ever made about him on here). He would reliably debate and dispute what his films were about, what his interests were, where they were shot and even the assertion that he had any talent. He was first-and-foremost a film director, and was rather disparaging of television (I gather Polish TV was and is largely poor), claiming that "you experience everything that's going on around you", so it's not at all surprising to see him take this postion.

Plus, it was made before serialisation was popularised outside of soaps (certainly true of Poland, though interestingly Miroslaw Baka (Jacek in "V") was in another miniseries at the same time), so factor in the vicissitudes of translation and you can now easily substitute 'series' and 'cycle' for 'serial' and 'anthology' respectively.

And as I've said before, it's invariably going to appeal more to a film crowd than a TV one, and I highly doubt anyone would be calling them films or a film if Kieslowski carried out his original plan to assign them to different directors (there's a good recent article about it here). If David Lynch directed all of Twin Peaks, would that somehow transform them into thirty films? Or one massive one? And would Fire Walk with Me (released theatrically like the Short Films) be part of that? Besides, who makes a bunch of movies without proper titles?


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