Blind Chance Criterion Collection Blu-ray review
We make decisions every day. Some might seem inconsequential, unrelated to anything that follows. We might not even consider them decisions; they are simply things that happen.
In BLIND CHANCE, the same setup is presented three times: a man drinks a beer in a station while the main character, Witke (Bogusław Linda, Andrzej Wajda’s MAN OF IRON), darts for the train. Each time the scenario occurs, something alters slightly based on decisions made by Witke. In the first, Witke dodges the man and makes the train; in the second, he runs into the man and misses the train; in the third, he misses the man and also the train.
Revealing what follows each would spoil the entire point and plotlines of the film, but the stories introduce and involve a number of occurrences isolated to their own worlds—run-ins with aging Communists (Tadeusz Łomnicki, 1969’s COLONEL WOLODYJOWSKI), arrests, trysts with former flames (Bogusława Pawelec, 1984’s SEXMISSION), successes in chosen professions, visits with old friends (Jacek Sas-Uhrynowski, Janusz Zaorski’s SONS AND COMRADES), marriages, children, etc.—are all meant to deliver the point in an eye-opening way, which may partly explain why it opens with a scream.
BLIND CHANCE (PRZYPADEK in its mother tongue) is directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski, the Polish master who the following year would release the epic THE DECALOGUE for television and, a handful of years later, the THREE COLORS trilogy (the final entry of which earned Kieślowski Academy Award nominations for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay). What Kieślowski does with BLIND CHANCE is challenges the viewer to consider their day. What if we stopped at the yellow light? What if we didn’t wait for change after getting coffee? What if we told our boss how we really felt? Where would that lead us? Would we be better off?
While it may be easy for some to label such happenings as having little importance, a strong case is made here for the opposite. Yes, BLIND CHANCE is at times extreme (the last scene in particular is so overblown that it threatens how seriously we take the film’s themes), but its purposes are difficult to disregard.
BLIND CHANCE falls somewhere between optimistic and bleak, a unique blend that initially comes off as indecisiveness on the part of Kieślowski, but works rather well in establishing an element of discomfort: a man offered the chance to adjust to the same scenario multiple times, but never given a hint as to which will give the best result. When the film ends, the viewer is left wondering if happiness is worth the unforeseen doom that could accompany it. It’s a haunting question, one that many of us may not be ready to ask ourselves.
BLIND CHANCE was originally scheduled for release in 1981, but was postponed until 1987, when it screened Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival, which Kieślowski would return to numerous times in his career.
Video: 1.66:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. “The uncensored version of the film included here was restored in 2012 by TOR Film Studio in Warsaw. This digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the 35 mm original camera negative and a 35 mm print at Chimney Pot in Warsaw, and restored in 2K resolution. The complete restoration was approved by cinematographer Krzysztof Pakulski.”
This is a strong transfer that offers fine details, nice textures and accurate colors (despite the fairly limited range).
Audio: Polish Stereo. Subtitles in English. “The original stereo soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the 35 mm magnetic tracks and restored under the supervision of Michael Zarnecki, the film’s original sound mixer.”
The dialogue is clean and the score (by the late Wojciech Kilar, who died in 2013) comes through wonderfully.
BLIND CHANCE Unshelved (18:12): Polish film critic Tadeusz Sobolewski discusses the censorship and delayed release of BLIND CHANCE.
Agnieszka Holland (5:24): Filmmaker Holland touches on the production of BLIND CHANCE and the “dramatic and philosophical context” within the film.
Censored (9:47) offers a collection of snippets of BLIND CHANCE originally censored in Poland.
Also include with this Criterion Collection release is an essay by film critic Dennis Lim and a 1993 interview about the film with director Krzysztof Kieślowski.