Krzysztof Kieslowski – Przeswietlenie AKA X-Ray (1974)


Made at the sanatorium of Sokolowsko in Lower Silesia, this film looks at individuals suffering from pulmonary disease and is a moving portrait of those living with illness.

In this short film, Kieslowski tries to penetrate the world of people affected by lung disease. In style, this picture closely resembles a documentary completed four years earlier titled I Was a Soldier which gives voice to veterans who had lost their sight to war, whereas in this picture, it’s the lung disease patients whose stories we hear. The entire movie is composed of their tales. The only binding element of the story is the buckle of the movie’s landscape which places the story at a physical location, indicating its threshold – going home after their stay at the sanatorium. The statements are made directly into the camera; the director uses close up on their faces. He listens.

Krzysztof Kieslowski knew the reality of sanatoria very well. As a nine year old boy, he was admitted to a prevention Clinic in Wisla with the risk of tuberculosis. He was a frequent visitor there. His father struggled with this dangerous illness for many years. When he had decided to make X-Ray, he traveled to Sokolowsko, where years earlier he received treatment and where his father had passed away.

“We had a shortage of film but plenty of time. So we decided to do some site seeing. Krzysztof was our guide, showing us where he used to live…” remembers Jacek Petrycki the operator (Stanislaw Zawislinski, Kieslowski, wazne, zeby isc…”, Warsaw 2005, s. 140)

“We took a trip up to the mountains, to Bukowiec. Krzysiek was in the lead, he knew those paths. It wasn’t much of a sentimental trip, however” – added Krzysztof Wierzbicki, the director’s assistant.

“He wasn’t satisfied with X-Ray. It evoked mixed emotions in him” – Zawislinski summed up.

Kieslowski’s subjects open up in front of the camera. They speak honestly and deeply and they are more filled with sadness than with hope. “It’s like being in a theater and simply watching what’s taking place but not getting involved” – states one of the patients. They miss work, their careers, complain about being idle for too long, and about problems with killing time. A former brass starts making tapestries to pass the time. “I’m losing my self confidence here” – he admits. On the other side, they start to recognize the importance of seemingly trivial everyday occurrences and experiencing previously unnoticed pleasures. “Actually, these details are the make-up of life” – we hear from the screen. And they really like living.

Subtitles:English, French

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