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Customer Review

on 9 December 2000
These ten films are the greatest achievement of European film making in the last twenty years. Shot with a visual economy and brutality of style which grew out of Kieslowski's work in documentary, they are at once profoundly wise and unflinchingly honest. Each individual film is a self-contained masterpiece, almost aphorisitic in their brevity and understated rhetoric.
All the works concern various individual and overlapping lives on a vast Polish housing estate, and are filmed in colour which seems to have been drained of all but the most sombre hues. The theme of each film is drawn loosely from the ten comandments and explores what those imperatives might mean in a modern context. There is a profound sense of locality, with the films growing out of specifically Polish experience, yet never seeming parochial. Seen through Kieslowski's lense that vast housing complex really does become an entire world. The most famous of the series are those which gained independent release as "A short film about Killing" and "A short film about Love", but make no mistake, the quality of all the works is uniformly high.
Anyone who has come to know Kieslowski's work through later films such as "The Double Life of Veronique" or the "Three Colours Trilogy", might be surprised by the absences of beautiful effects and flights of poetic fancy. These are not films which offer the comforts or almost mystical catharsis of his last works. Instead they turn an unflinching gaze on some ordinary lives, focussing on the meanness, solitude and quiet desperation of ordinary people, but by doing so they ultimately offer moments of redemption and humanity which put them into the same rank as the later portraits of Rembrandt. These are films to return to again and again. If you let them they will get under your skin and allow you to see the world with a "Kieslowskian eye", not necessarily a seductive or beautiful vision, but one which has a richenss beyond virtually any western art (not simply cinema)of the last twenty to thirty years. In the long run it is with these films that the greatness of the director will come to be understood, rather than on the more self-conscious works which gained him a wider audience in the west.
Essential if you want to understand the state of humanity in late twentieth century Europe
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