Actors: Boguslaw Linda
Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski
Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Subtitled, Widescreen
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Criterion Collection (Direct)
Release Date: September 15, 2015
Run Time: 123 minutes
Everything has meaning in a Krzysztof Kieślowski film, making repeat viewings a near necessity. Even with dozens of viewings, much of Kieślowski’s work is increasingly rewarding due to his ability to layer the films with carefully constructed themes and ideas. As well orchestrated as these narrative films are, it might be difficult to believe that Kieślowski began in documentary filmmaking, though he clearly carried over a social and political consciousness from this early work. Blind Chance is one of Kieślowski’s early narrative films, despite its release being delayed six years due to some of the content. Not only was he daring in the socio-political commentary made about communist
, Kieślowski’s experiments in
storytelling were ahead of the times even when Blind Chance was eventually released in 1987. Poland
Before there was American romantic comedy Sliding Doors or German philosophical thriller Run Lola Run, Kieślowski experimented with the concept of alternate timelines in Blind Chance. After an opening of sequence of the film’s protagonist in his final moments, followed by a series of memories (including this protagonist in his first moments of life) which only come together with an understanding of the remainder of the film, Blind Chance offers up three different realities that are all born from one crucial moment. A medical student named Witek (Bogusław Linda) rushes to make a train, unaware at how greatly the outcome of his life will be determined by this moment.
In the first version of this event, Witek is barely able to make the train and finds himself engaging in a conversation with an elderly passenger named Werner (Tadeusz Łomnicki), giving him a sense of idealism and support for the Communist political system in Poland. This ideal is challenged by Witek’s reunion with a former lover, Czuszka (Bogusław Pawelec), who has fallen in with the dissidents. This decision ultimately leads to betrayal and an unhappy ending for the couple, opening up the second path for Witek to take up with the opposition instead.
In the first alternate version of the same seemingly innocuous dash for the train, Witek fails to make it in time, instead getting into a scuffle with a railway guard. Forced to serve a community labor sentence as punishment for this, Witek falls in with an anti-communist political activist named Marek (Jacek Borkowski), and is swayed to join the cause. This version also involves a love interest and ends in accusations of betrayal, though the reasons and what he betrays are flipped from the first version. Werka (Marzena Trybała) becomes a distraction from Witek’s political activism, so he is accused of betraying his beliefs rather than the woman he is dating.
The tragedy of Kieślowski’s film comes from how well things go for Witek in the final alternate version of events. After chasing down the train for a third time, Witek once again fails to board it but also manages to avoid a confrontation with the station guard. Instead, Witek is left standing on the platform for a chance encounter with a fellow medical student, Olga (Monika Goździk). Not only does this relationship encourage Witek to continue his education as a doctor, as opposed to the other two versions, but he also finds himself a love which results in a happy marriage. All of this seems possible because of Witek’s unwillingness to get involved in the politics of
, one way or another. Every
decision seems to be safely calculated, leading towards what would seem to be
the happiest ending until Kieślowski decides to throw his final and most
poignant twist into the narrative. Poland
Kieślowski may be best known for his Three Colors trilogy and the television miniseries, “The Decalogue,” and deservingly so, but fans will find his richly rewarding style of filmmaking in the lesser known Blind Chance, available here in a newly restored 4K digital transfer of the uncensored version of the film. Only one of the censored scenes was unavailable to be returned, making this the closest that audiences have to the Polish Master’s original vision. This transfer was supervised by cinematographer Krzysztof Pakulski, and also includes an uncompressed stereo soundtrack. The Blu-ray special features also include a new interview with film critic Tadeusz Sobolewski about the film, as well as a 2003 interview with filmmaker Agnieszka Holland. The extras also have the nine sections which were originally censored, showing exactly what was taken out of the film’s original release. As with all Criterion releases, Blind Chance also has an insert with an additional essay from film critic Dennis Lim, along with an excerpt from a 1993 interview with Kieślowski discussing the film.
Entertainment Value: 6.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 9.5/10
Historical Significance: 9/10