Turning director Jerzy Stuhr does Kieślowski

Renata Murawska*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


In mapping out the constellations of Krzysztof Kieślowski's legacy, Jerzy Stuhr holds a peculiar place. His career in film intersected with Kieślowski's over an eighteen-year period, and Kieślowski's influence on him has been such that critics have questioned Stuhr's authorship of the films he has himself directed. Kieślowski and Stuhr's cooperation and lifelong friendship started with a talented film director approaching a promising theater actor to appear in The Scar (Blizna, 1976), Kieślowski's third attempt at nondocumentary filmmaking and first at a full-length feature film.1 Stuhr was asked to play a character only vaguely defined, with not one line of dialogue and, according to Kieślowski, utterly disposable. Stuhr's roles in this and Kieślowski's other early feature films made him one of the most recognized actors of the Cinema of Moral Concern and, after its expiration, of Polish cinema in general. At the same time, Stuhr's acute thespian sensibility assisted in Kieślowski's migration from the world of documentary to feature filmmaking in the mid- To late 1970s. When Stuhr decided to pursue directing after 1994, he drew on his experience of cowriting dialogue for The Calm (Spokoj, 1976, released 1980) and Camera Buff (Amator, 1979), and his close observations of Kieślowski's directing method. ven so, examining Stuhr-directed films for their Kieślowskian legacy, drawing on the professional connections between the two, is as much misleading as it is necessary. On the one hand, it highlights Kieślowski's influence on Stuhr's films. On the other, it forces a search for similarities between the cherished master and a relative newcomer to the directing scene, often followed by a critique of Stuhr's lack of originality, with each difference tempting an accusation of Stuhr's failure to achieve the heights of Kieślowskian vision. A more just approach to tracing the lines of influence between Kieślowski and Stuhr involves accepting Stuhr's authorial sovereignty, both as an actor and director, and examining the ways in which his association of sorts with Kieślowski informs and animates Stuhr's film work, while also giving some consideration to the ways in which Stuhr contributed to Kieślowski's directorial development.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAfter Kieślowski: The Legacy of Krzysztof Kieślowski
PublisherWayne State University Press
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)9780814333266
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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