Based on reportage of the 1976 strike in Radom, which ended with the regional Party Committee headquarters set aflame, Kieslowski’s made-for-TV hybrid film merges archival materials with a dramatization of organized opposition during a single day of conflict. Shot during the Solidarity period and finished just before the imposition of martial law in 1981, A Short Working Day was not broadcast until 1996, three months after Kieslowski’s death from complications of heart surgery.
Short Working Day was Kieślowski’s final film for television before Dekalog. It’s his only intended period piece, being set mainly five years before it was made, in 1981. Kieślowski completed it and Blind Chance near the end of the year, just as General Jaruzelski, in the wake of strikes and unrest and the rise of the Solidarity union, declared martial law in Poland. Both of Kieślowski’s films were banned by the authorities, as were other challenging works like Ryszard Bugajski’s Interrogation and Agnieszka Holland’s A Woman Alone. This caused Bugajski and Holland to leave the country and to work abroad. Kieślowski remained in Poland. With no possibility of films being made under martial law, he tried to find a job as a taxi driver, unsuccessfully due to his short sight and his not having had a driving licence for long enough.
Cowritten with Hanna Krall, Short Working Day was a film Kieślowski was always disparaging about. This may have been because it was an intentionally not uncritical but also not unsympathetic look at a Party official. The latter was a no-no amongst the artistic circles Kieślowski moved. Shot in 35mm with a view to a cinema release (which never happened) as well as a television showing, Short Working Day does feel an endpoint in Kieślowski’s work. I’ve said that the earlier television films in this boxset show Kieślowski’s roots in documentary, and parts of them could indeed be parts of a documentary along the lines of the ones he made about the workings of a railway station or a hospital. There’s less of this in Short Working Day, which is realistic to a fault. This may be in part due to the use of 35mm, as handheld camerawork is much less overt. The interest in inexplicable happenings and the workings of fate are more or less absent. He left that to his cinema work: Blind Chance can be read as his only excursion into science fiction, even if it plays as political parable – the same way as films with a similar premise, such as Sliding Doors and Alain Resnais’s pair of Alan Ayckbourn adaptations, Smoking and No Smoking play their SF themes for, respectively, romantic comedy and narrative gameplaying. The central figure of No End is a ghost. The major disruptions of traditional narrative in Short Working Day occur during the very well-staged protest sequences. On a half-dozen occasions during the film, Kieślowski freeze-frames the face of a protestor and a short blue-tinted flashforward shows us the aftermath: a beating at the hands of the police, a trial, and so on.
It took a long time for Short Working Day to be disinterred. In the interview in the book included in this boxset (see below), Kieślowski implies that he opposed its being shown. It was finally broadcast on Polish television after his death, on 27 June 1996.
1.68GB | 1h 13m | 768×576 | mkv