1971-1980DocumentaryKrzysztof KieslowskiPolandShort Film

Krzysztof Kieslowski – Z punktu widzenia nocnego portiera AKA From a Night Porter’s Point of View (1978)

Portrait of factory watchman Marian Osuch, who turns out to be a fanatic of discipline wanting to control everything and everyone. A metaphorical image of totalitarianism. @culture.pl

Kieslowski’s focus on the narrative of a single being instead of the observation of a larger culture reaches becomes even more evident in From the Night Porter’s Point of View[/I (1977). Explanatory as the title is, Kieslowski aligns his camera with an individual’s subjective view of a situation for the first time after [I]I Was a Soldier (1970) – to ‘be in someone else’s shoes’ – and comes up with the single most intriguing individual of his documentary career: the night porter, Marian Osuch. The film does not conduct itself like an investigation, and in fact, has nothing ‘to find’; or like a summary, because there is nothing ‘to summarise’ – instead, it is a documentary where Kieslowski merely ‘films’ because there is the night-porter to film. Sequences of the night-porter in uniform are mixed with sequences of him at home – training his dog, standing at a window and walking by the riverside. The eponymous point-of-view is lent, ofcourse, by a recorded voiceover narration of Osuch, which runs parallel to all the aforementioned sequences.

He is revealed above all, to be a person on the far-right, an aspiring Fascist, a product of primitive times in consistent disagreement with the prospect of imminent change. As he stands at the window of his house looking at young children playing in the street downstairs, Kieślowski conducts a fascinating shot-reverse shot schema of the porter and the street below – thereby using the most classical of film techniques, i.e. matching eyelines, to emphasise that the film is indeed being served from the porter’s point-of-view. The voiceover over the schema varnishes it, however, with another meaning:

‘In recent times, more and more people have begun finding problems with the state. I do not like such nitpicking. If I were the state, I would crush them.’

Kieslowski superimposes this voiceover over the sequence of him overlooking the city from his apartment window, and the children in the street below look like tiny creatures to him. It is clever peddling of an objective, even vindictive observation wrapped in the guise of a subjective ‘point-of-view’. Later, the porter declares, ‘regulations are more important than people. If people do not comply, they should be taken to the gallows in full-view of the public.’ He becomes the symbol of the irrationality of Communist regimentation – and a captive, eventually, of his very personal ambition of megalomania (‘people as captives of their ambition’ is a theme that continues into Talking Heads (1980)).

In the last scene of the film, however, it is the porter who comes under the scrutiny of watchful eyes; Kieslowski turns the tables on him, making him the spectacle instead of the spectator. As the porter goes to a nearby school, the teacher asks the children to identify the profession of the ‘man in the hat ‘(the porter). All of them collectively glance up at the porter, who in the final shot of the film, framed helplessly in a mid-shot, becomes ‘watched’ instead of the watchman, and comes across sheepishly as a mere agent of a grander ideology that he does not fully comprehend but is a mouth-piece for – someone who deserves sympathy instead of condemnation. It is precisely at this point in his filmography: the discovery of the individual who must be ridiculed, subjected to derision, and even denounced; but eventually be absolved – that Kieslowski’s feature-film career begins. The night-porter is the early draft of the latter Kieslowski-protagonist – through Dominique of Three Colours: White (1994), to Jacek of A Short film about Killing (1989), to The Judge in Three Colours: Red (1994) – the individual, who despite all, deserves a chance.
– Anuj Malhotra @projectorhead.in

305MB | 15m 47s | 725×544 | mkv



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