Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Cool Stylistic Elements in The Decalogue, Part II

Kieslowski's motivating passion in filmmaking was the state of common man and his response to the complexities of modern life in the wake of WW-II. After suffering censorship for his social documentaries, Kieslowski turned to fiction films but maintained his passion for probing the state of common man. His cinematic style in the Part II of the Decalogue (read yesterday's post for a plot summary) reflects a commitment to realism as Kieslowski endeavors to hold up a mirror to the souls of modern Polish people. We feel as if we were present in the story, spying upon the ordinary, mundane lives of normal people and their imminently real moral and psychological dilemmas. Here are a few interesting Stylistic Elements in Part II that communicate Kieslowski's story:
  • Lengthy takes: Kieslowski holds the camera on his character for longer than we're used to, forcing us to endure the awkward pauses and silences that occur naturally in daily life. Since the long take exhausts the image visually, we're forced to intellectually examine the pregnant pause and to use our imaginations to penetrate the character's thoughts.
  • The first shot of Part II establishes the austere and monolithic Warsaw apartment block, the setting for all 10 Decalogue films. Moving in and out of the frame in the foreground of this shot is a gardener who busily rakes the grounds. This shot, while seemingly mundane, reveals an important stylistic element employed by Kieslowski throughout the movie. The gardener’s movement, unfettered by the static frame, hints at a larger reality not captured by camera’s lens. An openly framed shot like this one suggests an incomplete visual idea, with important information missing or cut off by the unaccommodating frame—the camera becomes mere window into a larger world. Kieslowski does this for the sake of a subtle realism. The Polish world he films is real, not carefully composed on stage, and exists despite the camera.
  • Unbalanced compositions: Kieslowski doesn't carefully compose and balance the visual weights (line, shape, movement, texture) of his images. Objects, characters, and action are not always arranged in the most visually compelling way. For example, we naturally center the object of interest when we take a picture. In Part II, Kieslowski violates this inherent sense of balance within us. The main characters are often shot at the fringes of the frame. This is another example of his subtle realism.
  • Emotion is never forced by speeding up the rhythm of the editing or by using close-ups. The drama is powerful enough that Kieslowski doesn't see the need to manipulate the emotion out of the audience.
  • While Kieslowski tends to shot his films in a realistic and unobtrusive way, he occasionally violates this tenet for symbolic purposes. In one scene, for example, he shot an extreme close-up of a glass shattering, symbolically reflecting the inner anguish of the scene. In another shot, Kieslowski inspects every crevice of the invalid husband's hospital bedroom without an establishing shot. Typically, when directors pursue realism, they generally give the viewer an establishing shot before breaking down the components of the space through closer shots. In this scene, Kieslowski creates a unified space in our mind entirely through close-ups of various cracking crevices which emit slow drops of water. This emphasizes in our mind the decrepit state of the invalid and inculcates despair for the husband's recovery.


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