Camera Buff  [DVD]
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Filip, a clerk in a small Polish town, buys an 8mm camera to film the baby his wife is expecting. His bosses take an interest in it and commision him to film the company's 25th anniversary celebrations. When the result wins a prize at an amateur film festival, Filip, encouraged by his success, becomes consumed by his new found passion. But, as he develops his creative skills, Filip soon discovers that his devotion to making films has unexpected consequences as tensions arise in his marriage, his managers impose censorship upon him and his films inadvertently lead to the sacking of a colleague. Featuring a superb performance from Jerzy Stuhr, Camera Buff is a compelling exploration of the power and responsibility of the filmmaker.
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As his family life deteriorates, his obsession continues to develop, until both unreel at the end of the film like the copy of his film which he tosses across the pavement, exposing and ruining the film. While those around him tell him that he has everything in life, a burgeoning film career, a wife and child, he knows that everything is actually crumbling to pieces and he cannot hold himself together for much longer.
The film is also a reflection on Kieslowski's own experiences of censorship under communism and martial law in Poland - Filip is asked to remove sections of his films showing people exchanging money and going to the toilet during a work conference.
Made before his legendary Dekalog, Camera Buff strongly echoes the structure of these 10 short films. We have a protagonist whose life is massively changed by something, all of his own doing. There is undoubtedly a moral in here, and as one of Kieslowski's earlier films it is a prominent landmark on his journey to the monumental Three Colours trilogy.
As I said before, irrespective of this being a Kieslowski film, Jerzy Stuhr's performance alone is well worth the price of the DVD. His subtle portrayal of mounting monomania and his heartbroken soliloquy to camera at the end turn a great film into a fantastic one.
Although Kieslowski made better films than this during his career (Three Colours Red in particular showcasing a director at the height of his ability), 'Camera Buff' is certainly the most personal of his narrative films, due to the fact that it deals with the moral perils of being a film-maker, something that he often talks about in the very few candid interviews he has given. Whilst his later films dealt with more grandiose themes of fate, mortality and chance, 'Camera Buff' is a much more humanistic film, focusing on one man's search for a meaningful existence and the struggles he encounters along the way. This is a very simple and oft-explored theme in cinema but Kieslowski does not allow this to make his work any less complex, opting to add layer upon layer of characterisation and thoughtfulness.
The journey, evolution and growth of an amateur film-maker who loses more than just himself to the tempting world of art and the creative freedom it brings raises a lot of questions but what I find very often with Kieslowski is there is complete lack of conviction in his films. Rather than being a criticism, I find it a refreshing change to be watching a film whose director is asking as many questions as his audience along the way and is hoping to get as much out of the process of making a film as we are from watching it. This, of course, is mirrored within the film and the parallels between reality and fiction are partly what gives it such a strong pulse throughout.
It is carried along nicely by a quietly nuanced performance from Jerzy Stuhr and will be thoroughly enjoyed by anyone hoping to gain a greater insight into both film-making as an art and about Kieslowski as a film-maker.
Another key feature of Camera Buff – not surprising given its central theme of 'film-making’ – is its portrayal of 'the industry’ (1970s Polish-style, of course).Read more ›