In term of supplements this edition, though packed, has always been a bit of a disappointment to me primarily because I’ve found the supplements a bit of a mixed bag as a whole. Starting with the first disc the first feature is an audio commentary by film scholar Annette Insdorf. I had a mixed reaction to this track, finding her comments generally insightful and engaging but other times frustrating. Along with covering the general production and Kieslowski’s film career she does spend a lot of time trying to explain the film, examining its complex visuals and then relating certain elements to Kieslowski’s life to put things in some sort of context. As I said some of her comments are good and they do offer an interesting perspective and do make sense for the most part, focusing on the themes of chance and fate, but sometimes I guess I feel she’s beating around the bush and maybe trying too hard to put some sense to the film. I guess I enjoyed it overall, even if she can drone on in places, but, on a top of a somewhat droning voice, I maybe I just felt something got lost in the film after listening to it.
Following this is the alternate U.S. Ending, mentioned in the commentary by Insdorf, filmed by Kieslowski at the request of the Weinsteins (the film was release by Miramax in the States,) hoping to give the film more of an upbeat (?) or conclusive ending (I guess.) It resembles the original ending but tacks on an added moment that really seems odd in all honesty. It lasts over 5-minutes, but there’s less than a minute of alternate material (the segment even includes the entire end credits, which is completely unnecessary.) It’s a curiosity and nothing more really. It also looks to be taken from a home video release as it’s in terrible condition, presented in full screen, and just has this general slightly-better-than-VHS look to it.
The next section presents a collection of short films. Surprisingly not all of them are Kieslowski’s films; the first film, The Musicians is by Kazimierz Karabasz, a teacher of Kieslowski’s who was also an inspiration. The film follows a group of blue collar workers who get together and rehearse as a band. The camera just hovers around the group, focusing on preparations and the camaraderie between the members. The editing, which can be seen in Kieslowski’s work, is sharp and quick and the mix of images really conveys everything you need to know with very little dialogue. The film runs 10-minutes.
Criterion the presents 3 of Kieslowski’s short documentaries next. The first is the 18-minute Factory and it’s not what I expected. I think I was expecting some sort of propaganda film showcasing the factory labourer, but it’s not really that at all. It actually only focuses a bit of time on the factory floor, instead devoting all of its attention to the bureaucrats who work in the offices. The film was shot during a meeting and I’m not entirely sure what they’re discussing, but I am guessing it’s about concerns over a delayed project and the issues stemming from it, including with the government. Hospital is a 21-minute documentary short following the going-ons in a hospital (natch!) over the course of a day, catching a few interesting cases and surgeries along the way. Surprisingly the final one, the 13-minute Railway Station, comes off the most sinister as it documents the general happenings at a railway station, specifically the confrontations between customers and workers at the stations, along with pointing out the “eye in the sky” (security cameras) scattered all over the station.
The remaining supplements are found on the second dual-layer disc and the first one on here is possibly the most disappointing feature in this set (for me at least,) the 52-minute documentary Kieslowski—Dialogue , a rather ponderous piece that looks at Kieslowski’s career and The Double Life of Veronique, featuring an extensive interview with Kieslowski. Kieslowski does talk about his career which includes his move from documentary work to fiction films, and discusses his style. We also get brief interviews with others about his work and working with him. Unfortunately I’m almost positive half of the documentary is made up of clips from the film, and though they’re placed there mostly to point out techniques, the clips go on a long time and become tiring. It’s great to get interviews with the director but I’d really recommend fast forwarding through parts of it.
Much better is the next documentary, the 31-minute 1968-1988: Kieslowski, Polish Filmmaker, which looks at Kieslowski’s documentary films during this period and political situations that possibly influenced them, leading all the way up to his work in feature fiction films. I enjoyed this one a lot more and felt it offered a better analysis of Kieslowski’s film career and work.
After this we get a collection of interviews starting with 24-minute one with cinematographer Slawomir Idziak, who first covers why he got into the film business (at the time it was one of the few careers that allowed you to leave the country), meeting Kieslowski, and then talks a bit about Double Life…, shooting it, and expands on some other things mentioned elsewhere on the set (like how Andie MacDowell was the first choice for the main role) and then mentions an idea that was thrown around: to shoot a few different endings that would differ depending on which theater the film was being viewed in (similar to the 80’s comedy Clue by the sounds of it.)
Composer Zbigniew Preisner next talks about the director and the process of creating the score for the film, which was hard since Kieslowski apparently had no musical sense at all, saying that the director would sing “Jingle Bells” and have it sound like “Silent Night”. Despite this something obviously clicked because the use of music with the images in the film is one of its most striking elements.
The final interview is then with actor Irene Jacob, filmed in 2005, and still she still looks stunning. For 17-minutes she gets into detail about coming to meet Kieslowski and how she got the role. She also talks about how it was to work with director, who was always open to suggestions. She talks about the script and its release, and pretty much confirms that there was plenty of material cut out, and that the film was originally conceived quite a bit differently. Overall a charming interview and probably the best of them.
Criterion then includes a bulky 60-page booklet (which was trimmed down for the recent Blu-ray edition.) It still includes an essay on the film by critic Jonathan Romney on the film, followed by a rather philosophical essay on the film’s themes of choice by Slavoj Zizek (who manages to bring up Alien: Resurrection in the essay.) Peter Cowie then offers a short essay on Irene Jacob and her work with Kieslowski, which is then followed by excerpts about this film from Kieslowski’s book. It’s a bulky but intriguing read.
Overall I was a little disappointed by the supplements. Insdorf’s commentary offers a decent scholarly analysis, though it may be her style, which can be lethargic, being what somewhat turned me off of it. I was very disappointed with the longer doc on the film, which spent more time on clips from the feature film instead of focusing on the director. The shorts are a great addition, as is Jacob’s interview, and these, along with the short doc on Kieslowski’s transition to feature fiction films, are the strongest supplements in this set. 7/10