Camera Buff (1979): Part 1 of 2
Director: Krzysztof Kieślowski
Writer: Krzysztof Kieślowski
Cinematographer: Jacek Petrycki
Producer: Wielislawa Piotrowska
by Jon Cvack
The film opens in a communist factory in 1970s People’s Republic of Poland, with the early 30s man with a mustache Filip Mosz (Jerzy Stuhr); a character strikingly similar to Antoine Doinel, whose wife is pregnant, weeks away from delivery. The environment is cold and sterile where, counter to actualizing Filip’s species-being, offers little in terms of satisfaction. It’s a rite of passage that many go through, in which the excitement and frustrations of your 20s, where the newfound independence allows for exploration - travel, careers, relationships - suddenly level out. While a depressed economy might have limited Filip from experiencing much of these things, the fact that his youth is over and fatherhood hangs just around the corner, all while he works an unfulfilling job is clearly eating away at him.
That all changes when he receives an 8mm camera to commemorate his daughter’s birth, which he proclaims is the only thing he’s ever wanted since first getting his hands on a camera in youth. What starts as home videos of his newly born daughter and wife graduates to the factory, where the bosses want him to film an upcoming jubilee. However, when he includes a few “artsy” shots in the final product, he receives backlash from the factory bosses who order to him to remove the scenes.
I recall when my friend and I attempted to make our first films back in high school. One story was fairly extensive - for a teenage production - involving four friends who go on a road trip where they killed off one by one by some killer. We would shoot around all the great old barns, abandoned buildings, and forests around my town. We shot the film on a friend’s Canon GL2, who borrowed it from a different friend who used it to film BMX videos. Tim and I weren’t exactly friends with the group that made these BMX videos, but our friend said so long as he was in the movie it’d be fine. Considering the alternative was some crappy $300 Sony DV camcorder that I got for a birthday, we were thrilled at the opportunity.
We filmed with whatever time we had, and while I can’t remember the details, I remember the obsession Tim and I had to get the project made. I recall driving around for hours in my dad’s GM Bravada shooting B-Roll with the camera on a monopod which I stuck between the pull down seats. Another night, while filming the initial murder sequence with our friend JR (who was an incredible actor despite not wanting to be one), we had numerous Rambo-sized knives in the trunk, got stopped by a cop while filming who found the knives, confiscating them, telling us we’d have to pick them up at the station with an adult present, which all worked out in the end since JR’s mom was a cop in the same district. We would bounce between locations - people’s houses, the woods, scary old buildings or homes we’d find around the town. I remember the rush I had in finding a location we could use, whether an old barn or graveyard or cool road. As the pieces came together and as the obsession extended to the story, props, and trying to plan the shoot I remember the unwavering and selfish drive to get it done. And it was a strikingly similar feeling I had on Road to the Well; right or wrong, it felt like the most important thing in the world at the time.
Eventually things caught up to our little production, as Tim and I went rogue from everyone else, as the schedules or amount of people became too difficult to handle, our friend who lent us the camera accused us of leaving him out and demanded the camera back. I was absolutely heartbroken. After all we had done it was over. We never finished the movie. Although our own adolescent laziness contributed to the problem, I think it was the first time I understood how difficult it was to make a movie. Not in the technical aspects, so much as coordinating people and dealing with personalities and ideas that might offend your own insecurities to please everyone. Wit so many pieces moving in such different directions, you have to ensure that it continues to stay on course, and unfortunately, not everything - or everyone - can maintain the same level of importance.
This what makes Filip’s character so fascinating, as we watch him welcome the camera as though it was his calling, falling in love with the process, exploring the ways to shoot and assemble images, slowly discovering a voice. Kieslowski portrays the obsession that results from such pleasure, as in creating art with cinema, other people are required, and inevitably some of those will get hurt along the way. Having looked into the lives of many filmmakers and writers, most recently William Faulkner and David Foster Wallace, I think this selfishness is a Darwinian necessity in the arts, in that given all of the obstacles standing in the way, it’s the only thing can allow someone to take their work to the next level should others attempt to please all others at the expense of the work.
This isn’t to say that I agree with Filip ignoring his wife and daughter, so much as I understood it. Imagine living an entire life in an environment that epitomizes a lack of creativity, and then finally receive an opportunity that could change all that. I think anyone, if offered the chance to do exactly what they wanted to do with their lives, would experience the thrills of immersion.
Stay tuned for Part 2...
BELOW: Zizek on Kieslowski because there's else on YouTube about the film. But I'll take it
Please report any spelling, grammar, or factual errors or corrections on the contact page
Leave a Reply.
© Jonathan Cvack and Yellow Barrel, 2015 - 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jon Cvack and Yellow Barrel with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.