Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Concert of Wishes

Concert of Wishes
Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski 
Poland, 1967  - approx. 16 minutes
Found on "Bleu" DVD (Miramax)

Krzysztof Kieslowski made a name for himself on the international market in 1991 with the release of The Double Life of Veronique, and would mark the end of his career with an emotionally epic trilogy of films themed after the three colors of the French flag (BleuBlanc, and Rouge respectively).  Each film was at least marginally focused on exploring the very virtues represented by those three colors; liberty for blue, equality for white, and fraternity for red.  Together, thanks to remarkable artistic work from Kieslowski and his collaborators, these three films capture what might be one of the broadest palates of human qualities and philosophies within a single cinematic project.  Many fans and critics quote the Three Colors trilogy as the pinnacle of the director's career,  thus it's fitting that Miramax chose this collection to offer up a sampling of Kieslowski's earliest work within the medium.  Through these student films one can see the seed of what would come to be, the beginning and the end together in one place.  Kieslowski himself would probably appreciate the metaphysical implications of how that sounds.

Concert of Wishes, made in 1967, is his third or fourth student film.  It follows a young couple who leave a wooded lake area (a popular recreational spot it seems) on a motorcycle.  It's somewhat unclear, but I gathered they were on their way to a concert or festival of some sort, since they spend an amount of time examining a tent and supplies.  The woman also comments on a busload of students resting at the lake, to the point of "Looks like they're going too."  Where are all these people going exactly?  I'm not sure, and I can't say it really matters all that much.  Kieslowski's attitude towards narrative remains anything but conventional.  Disinterested in telling clear-cut stories or developing plots, he choses to focus more on universal ideas via examination of intimate human moments.  Here, the young couple loses their tent along the road, and is found by the older yet decidedly less mature driver of the bus.  The woman makes up an obviously false excuse to go back to find it, and when they return, the driver offers to return the tent if the woman is given to ride along in the bus.  At first she accepts, but her boyfriend reject the offer, gives the driver his tent and leaves with his girlfriend.

Again, there's a question to be answered.  What does it all mean?  To be honest, I really don't know.  There's a clear sexual theme at work for one thing.  In the beginning of the film one of the students shyly watches the couple by the lake, fascinated by woman as she parts her hair. Later this same student mentions the tent immediately upon the couple's return and receives a good bullying for nearly spoiling the prank.  The large group of seemingly more masculine and physically adept students (under the leadership of their not-so-great role model teacher/driver) objectifies this woman in their barter, assigning her a purely sexual worth.  However, we can determine through his actions that this first young man sees her for her deeper value, and is cast as the outsider for it (No surprise that he wears the thickest glasses of the group, eh?)  

There's some  generational/age theme that remains incredibly pervasive, though, and I can't seem to shake it.  First, we have this driver, clearly older than any of his pose and the traveling couple, who comes off less mature than any character in the film.  In fact he freely distributes alcoholic beverages to each of his students, indulging himself even while driving.  Secondly, when the couple first realizes they've lost their tent, they stop among a large group of young children.  At first the man suggests his girlfriend stay there until he returns, but the camera studies the faces of these children with a chilly distain, suggesting something just isn't quite right here.  The man senses this too, and then decides they should go back for the tent together.  What is it with these groups of young people?  Can they never be trusted?  Are the young adult students the same as the pre-teen kids?  Likewise, is the grown man one in the same with the children?  Knowing Kieslowski they very well might all be the same, going back to his affinity for metaphysics.  This is expanded by a short scene where the couple passes an elderly man in a car, the man on the motorcycle making some remark as to how they (meaning the older generation) are inexperienced or immature drivers.  Is that really a cause for concern in 1967?  Didn't think so, but sure enough the camera captures the man swerving dangerously on and off the curb.

As I've said, I won't pretend to understand  this picture.  But it's interesting to note the early footprints here of familiar thematic and cinematic motifs that would survive his 30+ year career in filmmaking.  Perhaps what's most satisfying about this early piece is the already spectacular visual sense at work.  In another fitting correlation with the Three Colors trilogy, (which uses their respective colors quite prominently and deliberately in the art and cinematography of those films, the distinct contrasts between reds and blues and greens an important expressive function) this short demonstrates a keen awareness of the black and white dynamic in frame.  Most strikingly we close with a pair of shots; one of a boy on a bicycle walking a cow, the animal's swaths of pure black and pure white coexisting but never blending, the other shot of the man's helmet divided white on top and black on the bottom.  Is there significance here?  Again, I couldn't say, but the filmmaker's awareness of those sorts of designs is clearly present, and would become increasingly more prevalent in his future.

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