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Blind Chance

Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski

Poland, 1987

HOME, 15 March 2017

Blind Chance

An early example of film as hypertext, a fiction along the lines of Queneau’s A Story as You Like It.

Witek (Bogusław Linda) takes a break from his medical studies and we see him running for a train. In one outcome, he catches the train and becomes a communist, joining the party and inadvertently (or not?) betraying some friends who print and distribute samizdat literature. One outcome sees him miss the train, fight with a train guard, and get arrested. Later he fights against the regime, in time converting to Catholicism. For the third and final outcome, there is a variation on this: he misses the train but this time espies a pretty girl, a fellow medical student, whom he falls for and loves. He marries her after recommencing his studies. This version sees him as a doctor, a humanitarian and a healer, but apolitical and apart from historical events.

The upshot of the film, its take-home message, seems to be that all actions have costs and consequences, all decisions involve compromise. That’s all part of the fabric of life; it is inescapable.

There is a discussion in the middle section of the film (outcome 2) of the so-called ‘anti-Zionist’ expulsions of the late 1960s: Poland’s communist regime finishing the job begun by the Nazis (or by the pre-war Polish government with its so-called Madagascar Plan and the exportation of terrorism to Palestine). The great historian Jan Gross, author of Neighbours and Fear, was part of this 1968 exodus, a wilful and shameful impoverishment of Polish culture.

Bogusław Linda is an engaging actor and Krzysztof Kieslowski’s film is a masterpiece, with many memorable scenes.