Thursday, 18 January 2007

Amator (1979) - Krzysztof Kieslowski



Camera Buff is in many ways one of Kieslowski's most insular films in the way it portrays a Polish worker with Polish issues living and filming in Poland, none of which non-Polish viewers could seriously hope to associate with. However, Kieslowski is a master, and this film is a masterpiece, a uniquely fascinating exposition of the tribulations of artistry - to rank alongside Rivette's La Belle Noiseuse and Jarman's Caravaggio.

Filip Mosz (Jerzy Stuhr) is a quiet, content man living a lovely family life with his wife (Malgorzata Zabkowska), working a decent-if-menial job buying for a local factory... until that is his daughter is born. With the arrival of his daughter friends of the fmaily buy Mr Mosz a Russian film camera, with which he can film his daughter growing up. But in the small Polish community word spreads quickly - before long he is being funded by his employers to film a documentary of the factory's jubilee celebrations, although it soon becomes clear that no everyone is happy with Filip filming absolutely everything (particularly when he films actors being paid after the celebrations). The film is cut and re-edited by his employers but Filip gets an uncut copy to a film festival where it wins second prize. With the prize money he gains more popularity and, with the help of the expanding film club he created, begins making a documentary about a cripple that works in the factory. Though he is told not to he submits the film to a tv station contact who airs the film on national tv making Filip a local icon yet proving the final straw for his employers - a close friend is sacked and Filip is warned off future similar projects. By the film's climax, with conflicting information getting to him from a variety of sources, Filip finally realise there is only one way he can make an honest film...

The acting from the leads is superb - particularly from the leading pair, yet it is the superb screenplay that really forms the basis of this masterpiece. The story focuses on Filip's artistic battle between his own sense of artistic freedom conveying the truth to the people, and the opinions of the state/employer who wish to censor his work oout of recognition to convey a rather different message. This battel however is offset against th battles of his personal life. As Filip's interest in cinematography becomes an obsession his wife becomes ever more desperate, firstly for his affections, then simply to see her husband who has all-but left her for his artistry. Krzysztof Zanussi appears as himself part of the way through the film adding significant weight to the importance of Filip's work, yet the ultimate cynicism of the narrative leaves the artists seeming naïve in their youthful idealism. They want to portray the truth but without really understanding the underlying social, political and economic reasons for the degredation they wish to portray. The documentaries are shown, in the end, to be little more than anti-state propoganda guilty of as much short-sightedness as those official propoganda tapes, and it is this shockingly harsh realisation that leads Filip to his amazing conclusion, a conclusion in which he is not just a character; clearly it is Kieslowski we see starting his confession (thus alluding to the quasi-religious nature of art) straight to camera.

Oscillating between bitterly cynical social commentary and poignant personal dilemmas, filmed in the iconic handheld documentary style of the Pole's early work this film, in my mind, is undoubtedly a timeless masterpiece. It's events may be confined to a specific location and chronology, but what it has to say about art and censorship, about honesty and perceived motives in film - these are timelessly universal in scope. 9/10

7 comments:

sen to said...

I want to see this movie so bad. Mainly because it's about an 8mm camera, but also because I love movies about Poland and the Polish society, etc. Probably why I loved Three Colors: White so much. Those grey/white landscapes of Poland and that Polish humor rock!

Speaking of, if you haven't already, you should see this movie called "Day of the Wacko" by Marek Koterski. It's a really honest and hilarious look at this man who goes crazy because of the stuff around him. Pure Polish humor.

M said...

I do love Polish humour, well - eastern european humour in general.

Likewise i recomend "Intimate Lighting" by Czech filmmaker Ivan Passer - a wonderfuly irreverent look at Czech life from within that lifestyle (and accompanied by some, at times, great music).

Tarantash said...

hi sir,
I saw 7 films from kieslowski in last 2 weeks,it was collection,i`m surfing for him in this days,i found u`r web page with hyper link surfing method and i like u`r writings,and i hang u`r address to my web page link`s.

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