Przypadek (1981) (aka Blind Chance)
Krzysztof Kieślowski

“If I hadn’t missed a train one month ago, I wouldn’t be here with you”

Blind Chance

Krzysztof Kieslowski’s films often deal with the themes of fate, coincidences and choices. The phenomenal Decalogue (1988) teased us with the possibilities of seemingly disparate lives being connected. Equally staggering Three Colours trilogy (1993-94) completed a full circle and testified Kieslowski’s theory. But almost a decade before the trilogy, Kieslowski had made Przypadek (1981) that had already embraced the possibility of plasticity of fate and existence of truly free will.

Blind Chance starts with a large number of minor shots that would define the key events in the film. After this, we are taken into the life of Witek, a medical student who has just received the news of his father’s death and decides to leave for Warsaw. He enters the railway station as the train gets ready to leave the platform. Right here, the film separates into three distinct threads. In the first one, Witek boards the train successfully and goes on to become a member of the Polish Communist Party and meets his first love on the way. In the next scenario, Witek misses the train and picks up a fight with the station guard. He is sentenced to public service and eventually goes on to join the Polish Resistance movement against the Communist Party. In the final one, he misses the train but avoids the fight with the guard. Also, he resumes his studies and becomes a “good citizen”.

Each situation drives Witek’s life in completely different yet connectable paths. In all the scenarios, it is interesting to see that Witek’s morals remain the same. His view of right and wrong, good and bad and love and hatred does not depend on whether he is political, anti-political or apolitical. It is essentially his choices that define his life. In each of the scenarios, Witek never manages to get what he wants completely. Perhaps, Kieslowski is suggesting that freedom never comes free and requires sacrifice of interest, ideology or free will itself. Naturally, for the heavy political content in the film, it went under the scissors of the censor board of Poland. This soured the relations between Kieslowski and the censor board that would prompt him to go abroad to make films.

Though seldom listed in the list of great foreign films, Blind Chance deserves to be called one of the most powerful films, if not influential, in terms of screenwriting. It not only employs non-linear narrative that would go on to become the trend in the subsequent decade, but also traverses over the same time line multiple times. What Rashomon (1950) dealt with on the basis of subjectivity over one single reality, Blind Chance deals with using multiple objective realities. Quite a few films adopted similar screenplays in the future most notably two films from 1998 – Peter Howitt’s Sliding Doors (which ironically won the BAFTA for best original screenplay (!) which only shows how much Blind Chance’s fame was low key) and Tom Tykwer’s Run Lola Run (2002) (with whom Kieslowski himself collaborated for Heaven (2002))

Although one can understand the film better with a good knowledge of the political scenario of the country during its time, the universal themes of fate and predestination will appeal to all and one will easily be able to empathize with Witek. Considering the deluge of films that try to play with time, reality and subjectivity and in the process gain success easily, one can feel how massive Blind Chance was in its vision and scope and one just feels pity that the film hasn’t got its due recognition so far.