The ten-minute-long Refrain deals with a funeral home and targets bureaucracy, corruption and dispassionate attitudes toward sorrowful fellow citizens. The film also reveals some macabre, almost Kafkaesque humour familiar to those who lived under the communist system, for example in the scenes when clients apply for graveyard lots. Refrain opens with an image of erasing the name of a recently deceased person. The last scene not only displays Kieślowski’s black sense of humour, but also provides a universalising metaphor: to the sound of Vivaldi’s music, the camera portrays a number of newborn babies in a hospital, each being assigned its identification number. —Kinoeye.org
A towering figure of Eastern European cinema, Krzysztof Kieslowski was born in Warsaw, Poland, on June 27, 1941. His formative years, spent under the specters of Hitler and Stalin, were nomadic; his father suffered from tuberculosis, and the family traveled from one sanatorium to another. At the age of 16, Kieslowski entered Fireman’s Training College. His stay was short-lived, instilling a lifelong loathing of uniforms and disciplines. To avoid military service he returned to school, later attending the Warsaw College for Theatre Technicians. In 1965, after several previous rejections, he was finally accepted into the famed Lodz Film School — the same institution which launched the careers of Roman Polanski, Andrzej Wadja, Jerzy Skolimowski, and Krzysztof Zanussi — and made his first short feature, Tramwaj (The Tram), the following year.
The communist-controlled Poland of the 1960s and 1970s was a nation of great political unrest. Consequently, film emerged as a crucial means… read more