Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

12 Jan 2001, 12:34 p.m.

I OD'd on Kieslowski -- next time on Springer

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2001 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

Advice: Do NOT try to watch six hours of Kryzsztof Kieslowski's work in a single night. I was bewildered by "White," annoyed by "Blue," and asleep halfway through "Red."

So Wednesday night we went to see the Big Night O' Kieslowski, the Three Colors Trilogy, over at the UC Theater. Problem: over the past weeks, since my last Kieslowski tasting (see earlier diary entries on "Decalogue"), I'd gotten used to films that have, like, closure.

So I walked in as a lamb to a bewildering French-Polish surreal holodeck. No, not a slaughter. But I'm sure no lamb could be more confused than I.

I had seen/heard description of "White" as a comedy. It had some funny moments, yes. You wouldn't think that a bunch of thugs beating an unarmed man, then throwing him over a mountainside and driving away, could be funny, but it was. However, whoever described the film as a whole as a comedy must have been operating on a different definition of "comedy." As in, "a film in which no one dies."

I liked "Blue," even though I found some of Kieslowski's devices annoying and incomprehensible. In the Decalogue, I could -- with some help from Anirvan -- figure out the purpose of some gimmicks or motifs. But the sudden music swelling and blackout -- I just didn't get it. But it was pretty, and I could actually follow the story.

(Note: I think I understand more Polish than French, even though I took French for four years in high school, and I've never formally studied Polish. It must be the Slavic connection with my current Russian studies.)

And then there was "Red." I can't say much -- I fell asleep around halfway. I remember being excited about the cyberpunkish opening that went inside a telephone wire. But the rest of the movie was pretty person-centric, no hacking or anything. Sigh. I was tuckered out, and I awoke to the sound of applause as the film ended.

(Note: in a foreign film, the barriers to closing your eyes are higher, since you have to keep your eyes open to follow the subtitles. No "I'll just listen to the dialogue" here.)

The last time I fell asleep at a film was also at the UC Theatre, in my ill-advised effort to watch "Hamlet" -- the Kenneth Branagh version, around four hours long. Someday I'll try to see it again. But the newest one, the Ethan Hawke version, was great and quite serviceable, so maybe I should just go see that one twice.

Poll: Favorite evangelist

  • Eric S. Raymond
  • Richard M. Stallman
  • Pat Robertson
  • Harlan Ellison

Originally published by Sumana Harihareswara at