Krzysztof Krauze, film director and scriptwriter, born in Warsaw in 1953. He passed away on 24th December 2014.
Krauze graduated from the cinematography department at the film school in Łódź, although he was focused on becoming a director. From 1978-1983 he was involved with the Small Form Studio Film called SE-MA-FOR in Łódź. In the early 1980s, he decided to emigrate, but did not manage to make a name for himself in his profession and he returned to his homeland. Krauze started out making TV commercials. For a time, he was a member of the board of television program Andrzej Munk Debuts Studio as well as a member of the Artistic Board of the Irzykowski Studio. Since 2001, Krzysztof Krauze is a member of the European Film Academy, and since 2007, a member of the Board of the Polish Filmmakers Association. In 2008 he became Chairman of the Polish Film Institute.
Krzysztof Krauze has won many major film awards. Among them is the Eagle Polish Film Award, awarded twice for best screenplay and direction of the film Dług (The Debt) in 2000 and again in 2007 (with his wife Joanna Kos-Krauze) for directing the film Plac Zbawiciela (Saviour Square). They received Golden Lion awards for Dług, granted at the Polish Film Festival in Gdynia in 1999 and another one for Plac Zbawiciela in 2006. In addition, among others, Krauze received the main prize at the Karlovy Vary festival in 2005 for directing the film Mój Nikifor (My Nikifor).
Beginning with the tremendous success of his 1999 film Dług, Krzysztof Krauze became one of the most esteemed filmmakers of his generation. Before he won over the audience with this harsh, realistic, shocking story, he made documentaries, shorts, and over the time he was associated with the Łódź studio, Se-Ma-For, he shot films using various animation techniques.
After a two-year break, due to his emigration, he realized a one hour documentary film at the Irzykowski Studio, enjoying the autonomy it gave him. This film, which is about the village of Zbroszy Duża is called Jest (It Is), which the director believes holds a special significance in his achievements.
Jest was awarded the 1984 prize of the underground Solidarity Trade Union as well as the Parisian 'Kultura'. In an interview with Barbara Hollender (Rzeczpospolita 25.11.1999), the director mentions that this film became his prized ticket to the TOR team, run by Krzysztof Kieślowski and Krzysztof Zanussi. Later on, with TOR, Krauze shot his debut feature film called Nowy Jork – czwarta rano (New York - Four in the Morning).
With his film Nowy Jork – czwarta rano Krauze received both critical acclaim as well as a fond audience. However, among other film makers, he met with some critique, as mentioned in the cited interview with Barbara Hollender, words of criticism, which he took to heart, considering the direction taken in the first story to be irrelevant:
A lot of people watched New York, and I got an award for it in Gdynia, but for me, the film was a disaster. The people, whose opinion I cared about, remained very reserved. I asked Krzysztof Kieślowski why he allowed me to shoot this film. He replied that he did not want to stop it, because he was afraid that something inside of me would break. And so it broke. For 8 years I could not stand behind a camera. But I believe that everything in life happens for a reason. I began to understand why it is that it turned out the way I wanted. It had a touch of truth, and it is the only way. You have to find your way to this truth. Even the most created film in the world has to carry it.
As he was very demanding towards himself as a director, considered his success a setback. He went back to shooting documentary films only in 1992, and made another feature film in 1996.
In his later pictures however, Krzysztof Krauze, abandoned this style and definitely returned to what he learned from his documentary experiences: the pusuit of the 'truth'. He also remained loyal to documentary cinema. He made documents such as Departament IV (Department IV), a film about the harassment of the Catholic Church by the communist secret services, which is a theme already touched in his previous work Jest. As well as two other films Kontrwywiad (Counterintelligence) and Spadł, umarł, utonął (Fell, died, drowned), picking upon themes, which he later developed into a feature Gry Uliczne (Street Games). In Gry Uliczne, Krauze reached for authenticity, including the event of the disguised political murder in the 1970s by the secret services in communist Poland carried out on Stanisław Pyjas, a student from Krakow and opposition activist. In the film, this storyline becomes the subject of investigation by two young journalists in the 1990s.'In the fear of taking up a 'martyrdom' theme, I tried to 'rejuvenate' the film. It would have a stronger meaning if it had been told in a straightforward way', Krauze told Barbara Hollender, after the unprecedented success of his later work Dług.Comparing Gry Uliczne with Dług, Krzysztof Ociepa wrote:
What contributed to the originality of "Street Games", among films dealing with the notion of coming to terms with problems from the past, determined failure among audiences. Krzysztof Krauze learned a lesson from this setback. His next film, Dług (1999), is a work in many ways similar to Gry Uliczne, but at the same time, different. The director abandoned his previous inter-textual collage poetics in favour of a simple reconstruction of events.
Dług also relates to authentic events, its plot however takes place in one time frame, during the 1990s. It is an analysis of the loss of moral attitudes and values during that specific point in time. The film tells a story from the papers, a true crime, for which the guilty parties paid a high price for their actions. The director and also the film's screenwriter, tried to maintain its authenticity in the presentation of events, the psychological portraits of characters, as well as the social background. The diligent description of events stands out in this film. Krzysztof Krauze used to his advantage the direct contact he had with the convicted in this case. The documentary style - in its roughness and simplicity - successfully pans out the weight of the subject. 'Strict adherence to the reality of film and our perceptions of reality off the screen are - in my opinion - one of the reasons for the success of this movie', wrote Krzysztof Ociepa.Krzysztof Krauze turned out to be an astute observer of contemporary Poland, and the younger generation, which endured the possibilities drawn before them thanks to the political transformations. The only impulse that can stimulate the action of two young people from the film Dług - is money.
After all, they are the beneficiaries of today, and for people like them, so it appears, an entirely new system was created. They have no inhibitions, do not look back, at the past generation in which their parents were brought up, who know the extensive passages from Pan Tadeusz by heart, yet do not know the difference between a share and a bond.
In the article cited above, Pietrasik refers simultaneously to Dług and to their prototypes - young men sentenced to prison for many years and a whole generation of young people like them who recklessly rejected the values held by their fathers. Krauze's main characters, pushing the desire to achieve financial success without resistance goes into business with a gangster. This hasty decision ends in trouble. The man who was to help them finance a financially profitable venture soon turns into a ruthless enforcer of a fictional debt and threatens them with death. The businessmen decide to murder their pursuer, in the process becoming just like him.
Dług resulted in an avalanche of articles, essays and online discussions. As one of the most important contemporary films, it became the pretext for a broader discussion about Polish reality after the changes of 1989. In response to a survey made by monthly magazine Polityka about the film, film critic Lech Kurpiewski wrote that it is a "thriller and morality play in one" as well as a record of Pole's contemporary anxieties (Polityka nr 1/2000.)
The director received praise, but at the same time, was accused of defending criminal activities, looking for excuses for their heinous act. Dług directed by Krzysztof Krauze is a multilayered film. You can understand it as a suspense thriller about two decent guys who found themselves in trouble.
Barbara Hollender wrote:
The heroes in The Debt crossed the limits of their defense. Viewers however, have the impression that - while alone with this nightmare, one is faced with the choice of 'kill or be killed'. This is the most terrible theme in Krauze's film. What is most horrific about this is the fact that these nightmares can happen to any ordinary person, like a neighbour, a passer-by walking on the street, or ourselves.
The appeal to the audience, which Krauze incorporated in Dług however, is not a simple warning. Tadeusz Lubelski is more correct in saying that:
The Debt compels us at first, using the structure of suspense, fearing for the hero as if for ourselves - we tend to sympathise with his crime, only to, in retrospect, go back a step and ask ourselves whether we would be in fact capable of undertaking such an act.
With regards to the question of where to look for the cause of evil, the director himself answers:
We want to be free to once again become slaves to our desires. Desires cannot be satisfied and fear arises when our plans and desires become threatened. Today's media, promoting a consumer lifestyle, showing happiness as a result of ownership, have a huge impact in multiplying our desires. Hence, as a result, the participation in violence.
Evil in Dług is not embodied in the gangster, yet already inscribed in the desire of the two young heroes, who guide their steps and make them blind towards values other than materialistic possessions. The picture of reality, which we find in this film, is undoubtedly the result of penetrating the darkest recesses of the human soul, a native of Dostoevsky rather than Hrabal. The world depicted here lies in the antipodes of the debut New York, in which Krauze deliberately tried not to remember these dark corners.
Following the success of Dług the director emphatically declared to Barbara Hollender: 'Now I know that I need such movies as Dług. And not those like Nowy Jork – czwarta rano (Rzeczpospolita, 25.11.1999). Filmed four years later Mój Nikifor (My Nikifor) is not a movie from the so called "bright side of life". It does not tell a serene story with a happy ending. On the contrary, it is a story about a gifted, yet lonely and handicapped man, battered and used by others. It is also the story of another man who had a family and an associated desire with them. He was also an artist and had related ambition with this in mind. It is based on the true story of a naive painter known as Nikifor and his mentor Marian Włosiński. Krauze's film tells the story of the relationship between the two. Compassion, or perhaps a sense of mission in suppporting the talent and work of Nikifor, ruin Włosiński's life, causing the break-up of his family, and resignation from his own professional ambitions.
Courage to be nothing 'is one of the main themes of My Nikifor. This is a lesson that Włosiński learns in the film. It is his spiritual transformation. From the ‘I', to 'nobody'. From taking to giving. From the fear that if one gets too little to concern that he gives too little. There is a saying: 'what you offer - you keep, what you keep - you lose'.
The film was another big success for Krzysztof Krauze. The co-scriptwriter was film director's wife, Joanna Kos-Krauze. In 2006, two years after the completion of Mój Nikifor, the creative duo (this time, Joanna Kos-Krauze also co-directed the film) collaborated on Saviour Square. This time, to maintain balance, the film dealt with "the dark side of the street". As dark as Dług of several years previous - and as in Dług, the film gave a thorough analysis of contemporary Poland.
A young couple from Plac Zbawiciela desires to live comfortably and have a bigger flat. There is nothing wrong with that. Not until the fateful coincidences make this desire a trap from which the characters will not be able to get out. Tracking the fate of the characters, the audience cannot fail to notice that ways out of the trap appear throughout the film, but the characters do not take them into account. Neither the young woman, Beata, nor her husband Bartek, or his mother. They focus their attention on their desires, not allowing any consideration to let go of these desires. And they, like the young men from Dług, are succumbed to an imposed common style, which promotes happiness as a result of ownership. Their desires have been artificially multiplied and lead to the destruction of emotions and uncontrollable mutual hatred that knows no mercy. Evil is not personified in the film through developers or banks. The evil is already predestined in the desires hidden in the characters, which they succumb towards, and without which, are unable to get around.
From the beginning, the creators of Plac Zbawiciela saw this film as a continuation of Dług, where there were plans to shoot a third film to create a triptych, but remained only in the form of a screenplay, Rozmowy w deszczu (Talks in the Rain). The screenplay is based on a story written by Wojciech Albiński, a Polish writer living in South Africa. So far they have also been unable to set up filming in Africa.
The subsequent film which premiered on 15th November 2013 was Papusza, an epic life story of the Polish-Romani poet and singer . However, Joanna Kos-Krauze and Krzysztof Krauze do away with the classical biographical approach. The directors present the pre-war Gypsy society, life in the caravans and small pre-war Jewish cities. They look upon these worlds with care and sensitivity. Papusza is not an ethnographic illustration, it's a requiem.