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How Do You Measure Success in Art?

11 December 2017

When it comes to fine art, the measure of success is immortality: both of the work and its author. But what is it like in the case of film – the art form which presence is measured not in centuries, but merely in decades? Thus, 85 years ago film festivals emerged as places for confrontations of filmmakers’ artistic achievements.

At the turn of the 1970s and 80s – in line with the spirit of the era, or rather according to the rules of the propaganda of success – we would look forward to seeing awards for Polish Cinema, celebrating every, even the most insignificant, sign of recognition. After all, being the leaders of the world’s film – three Oscar nominations between 1975-77 – obliges. I remember how we observed the competition of young Piotr Shulkin and Piotr Andrejew – wondering which of them would receive more awards. Was the success of Krzysztof Kieślowski closelyfollowed at that time? It was not; Kieślowski was already beyond reach, having a reputation of a bounty hunter within the circles – which was recognised with appreciation – perhaps without pride (ah, this professional envy!) but without irony either.

The portal www.imdb.com, the world’s biggest film website, presents Kieślowski as a filmmaker with two Academy Award nominations, a winner of 61 awards and 26 nominations. Impressive record, but is it complete? In fact, Kieślowski and his works were granted more awards – the majority of them for feature films, which in the 1980s and 90s became the markers of the way to the further development of world cinema, so far concerned with politics. That turn to metaphysics put Kieślowski in the spotlight – and it happened in the moment when Polish cinema was still searching for its place in the new reality. That was also when Krzysztof Kieślowski started to be considered as the one who managed to leave his stamp on the world’s cinema, and the measure of his success became the fact that everyone can correctly pronounce his name.

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Financed with subsidy of The Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of Poland