Posts Tagged ‘Krzysztof Kieslowski’

 “Time. We live by it, ladies and gentlemen, it doesn’t live by us.”
                                                                       Chuck Nolan (Tom Hanks)
                                                                       Cast Away 

Recently I’ve written a bit about the importance of theme in movies. Some writers start with it and some writers are oblivious to it relying on their on instincts for theme to emerge. Back in the 90s when Tom Hanks first had an idea to do a modern day Robinson Crusoe type story of a man on a deserted island the concept was intriguing to screenwriter William Broyles Jr. who was a marine in Vietnam.

It was Hanks’ suggestion that the main character work for Federal Express, which Broyles said turned out to be “the perfect symbol of a modern company” and just happened to have the motto, “The World on Time.” From there Broyles began to find ways to take a man deeply reliant on time and disconnect him from his modern life. To ask the questions, “What happens when your dreams don’t come true?” and “What’s truly important in life?”

“Wrestling with dramatic elements—and others about acceptance and fate and forces larger than ourselves–was an important part of the screenplay, but those battles tend to play out on a subconscious levels. They’re hard to write about explicitly, and to do so in a movie would be as self-defeating as it would be presumptuous to write about here.
            So while these thematic questions were constantly at work beneath the surface, they weren’t the story, and that’s what a movie has to be.”

                                                           William Broyles Jr
                                                            Cast Away; The Shooting Script

It’s a healthy question to ask if your theme is overpowering your story. I think particularly in movies with strong political or religious themes this is often where zealous filmmakers get into trouble and the critics start making accusations of propaganda. 

A great example of making a film with a religious theme that doesn’t overpower the story is The Decalogue by Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski who also co-wrote the scripts with Krzystof Piesiewicz. They are ten one hour films that each explore one of the ten commandments. 

This is what Stanley Kubrick wrote in 1991 about their work:  “It should not be out of place to observe that they have the very rare ability to dramatize their ideas rather than just talking about them. By making their points through the dramatic action of the story they gain the added power of allowing the audience to discover what’s really going on rather than being told. They do this with such dazzling skill, you never see the ideas coming and don’t realize until much later how profoundly they have reached your heart.”


Scott W. Smith

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