Filmed in 1981, it took 6 years until the Polish authorities allowed for Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Blind Chance to be released. After watching the film, it is easy to see why – the political themes aplenty in the narrative, but don’t assume that the film is making a political statement. Far from it. What Blind Chance is, is existentialism applied to cinema.
The film starts with a man screaming “No” on a plane. We see a birth scene, and several episodes of someone’s childhood and teenage years. The characters look straight into camera (one of Kieślowski’s favourite filmic devices), and only after a while we are introduced to our protagonist Witek (Bugosław Linda). After his father’s death, Witek takes a sabbatical year from medical school and runs for the train to Warsaw. From this scene, three different storylines emerge. The first, he gets the train and becomes a Party member. The second, he loses the train, gets into a fight at the station and becomes a member of the anti-Communist Resistance. In the third, he loses the train, but avoids the fight and stays with his lover, becoming a successful doctor and a family man, free from any kind of political involvement.
How such a small happening can change a man’s life so dramatically can appear to be a manifesto about how we are all powerless against Fate, but we think Blind Chance is saying exactly the opposite. In each storyline, it is Witek’s level of determination on getting the train that makes his life change either way. In each storyline, he follows what he thinks is the right way to act – and that is probably what the Polish authorities didn’t appreciate, the idea that there is no absolute Right or Wrong. The themes of the dead twin brother (another storyline possibility that was not given a chance to exist) and the father’s death are typical symbols for the Polish director, who here is starting his long-lasting relationship with the theme of Chance. And the irony of it all is that you may think the third storyline is the happiest outcome, as all goes well for Witek (he even says at a certain stage he’s been too lucky) but then, of course, you finally get what that big “No” at the beginning was about.
The cinematography – particularly the framing – give a modern feel to the film, and Linda’s performance stays true to his character, making him believably the same person even when the circumstances around him are dramatically different. It may not be as audience friendly as Kieślowski’s later works, but it surely can be a great introduction to his filmography.