Blind Chance (1981)

Trying to peg anything definite down on most Kieslowski films is a futile gesture. His films exist in the mystery and are intentionally ambiguous. However, he was not always known for this. As seen in The Scar and Camera Buff, before Kieslowski made The Decalogue he dealt in straightforward drama. Blind Chance leaves all that behinds and is perhaps his most perplexing and confusing picture.

The best way I can go about describing this film is that it’s the three parallel lives of Witek (Boguslaw Linda), a Polish medical student. He decides to take an absence and heads to the train station. There he tries to catch a train just as it leaves. However, from that moment the film splits into three sections and each time something different happens that changes the course of Witek’s life.

Fans of Tom Tykwer’s Run Lola Run will immediately recognize this structure. In fact, I suspect this film was Tykwer’s inspiration. Yet while Run Lola Run centers on action, for Kieslowski it’s about the drama. The way Witek’s life unfolds every time is significantly different. The people he surrounds himself with, the woman he ends up with and the calling he takes are different in each section of the film.

Yet Blind Chance differs from similar films such as Run Lola Run and Groundhog Day because there’s isn’t a right or good life. In each lifetime, Witek does something of significant value. For instance, in one case he risks his own life to save a few hostages and gives himself up as a hostage. In another life he promotes a political agenda he believes will make a better Poland. In yet another life he becomes a doctor and raises a family.

Other films would make one of these lives clearly better than the other. But, as always, Kieslowski isn’t interesting in making judgments. He trusts that an audience smart enough to understanding the nature of the film’s structure will be smart enough to make their own conclusions about Witek’s three lives. This also means that there’s a lot of bitterness in each of Witek’s life. No life is perfect and this film alone defies similar film by actually ending on the darkest note of any of Witek’s lives.

This device, as well as the structure of the film, suggests the pure randomness of life, how the smallest event can change the course of a life. Is life nothing more than randomness? While it is certainly true that each life is distinct and different, Witek remains the same. His identity does not seem to be tied to which life he is in. Yet it is also true that each life takes him on a different path with a different goal and with different people.

I find it hard to actually evaluate the craft of Kieslowski’s films on the first viewing. I’m too busy caught up in the mystery of what I’m watching, struggling to grasp just a feeble thread of what I’m witnessing. The actual style is still more in his documentary phase and he pulls techniques and elements from documentary filmmaking, but overall it is structured unlike any of his previous film.

The deliberate ambiguity of Blind Chance and the shift in style marks Kieslowski’s entrance into the realm of mystery. The rest of his career he will explore the mystery of life itself. There are those who can embrace that mystery and others who find it irritating. Much like the crucial moment at the train station for Witek, this is the turning point for Kieslowski. Here he embraces the mystery and strides forward, taking his body of work in a bold new direction.

© 2010 James Blake Ewing