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Kline, T.J. (1996). Seeing Red: Kiéslowski and the Uncanny. Psychoanal. Rev., 83(3):435-443.

(1996). Psychoanalytic Review, 83(3):435-443

Film Notes

Seeing Red: Kiéslowski and the Uncanny

T. Jefferson Kline, Ph.D.

Owing to the projection outwards of internal perceptions, primitive men arrived at a picture of the external world which we, with our intensified conscious perception, have now to translate back into psychology.

—Freud, Totem and Taboo

Film isn't a bad medium. It's a much more primitive medium than literature but it's not a bad one if you want to tell a story.

—Kryzsztof Kiéslowski

Kryzsztof Kiéslowski's Red opens with the image of fingers touch-dialing a phone. The camera follows the phone wires to the wall, then, magically enters the wall to follow the wires down under the street, and in an accelerated traveling shot forward speeds under the Channel, then resurfaces only to disappear again into conduits leading to a phone in Geneva. But, despite all its disorienting and dizzying movement, this stylistic tour deforce leads only to a busy signal. Surely, the act of communication itself is metonymized in this opening sequence: The people of Kiéslowski's cinematic universe are all “wired” to each other in a multiplicity of ways, some evident, some submerged and hidden from view. But being wired does not always, as this sequence illustrates, lead to communication; very often the opposite is more likely.1 Making communication work for you requires hard work, and Kiéslowski relates this work directly to the work of remembering itself: “I think we do remember a lot, only we just don't know it. Digging hard and decisively, digging sensitively around in our memories makes the lost images and events come back. But you must really want to remember and you have to work hard.”2 Elsewhere he tells us, “It's only when you've done this work that you can see a certain order of events and their effects.”3 Not every moviegoer will accept the work required by this film, but repeated viewings reward the attentive viewer with a satisfaction rare in recent cinema.


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