The film ends with a chastened Filip alone in his apartment, a year after the birth of his daughter, and left to film nothing but himself. He turns the camera on himself and narrates the scenes of his child’s birth that started the film, yet another layer within a layer in this highly textured work.
As a pure work of art the film gets better as it progresses. Early shots seem handheld, amateurish, quotidian, and almost cinema verité, while later scenes reflect a more polished technique, and seem more political, thereby recapitulating Filip’s progress as a filmmaker subliminally. Also, aside from the visual progression, the film starts off as a mildly comic farce — Filip hiccups when upset, and ends in being an existential drama, with a dour Filip looking blankly into the black lens.
It’s not a greatly funny film at the beginning nor a gloomily dark one at the end, but it is a film that has the stamp of "reality" all over its artifice, even if its political critique is its weakest element. Also wan are the moments of forced emotion, such as when a friend and neighbor of Filip’s, named Piotr Krawczyk (Marek Litewka), whose mother dies, and who is so distraught he cannot go to the funeral, asks to see a film snippet that Filip took of him and his mom. His depth consists of this banality: "What you’re doing is beautiful. Somebody is dead but still here." Another banality the film offers is this: "The life of nature can withstand the light of day," implying that man-made things are less truthful.
This sort of tripe is the fault of the screenplay, written by Kieslowski alone, with some help from Stuhr, before he was to partner with Krzysztof Piesiewicz, who helped him with The Decalogue and Three Colors Trilogy. Also, the camera work by Jacek Petrycki, so key in his later films, is rather dull, muted, and flat, despite the switch from documentary to feature film style. But, most of all, this film is missing the glorious soundtracks and musical scoring of Zbigniew Preisner, which made the later Kieslowski films so memorable. This film’s music, by Krzysztof Knittel, is so underwhelming I cannot honestly recall a single theme nor motif from the film.
The DVD of the film, part of Kino Video’s The Films Of Krzystof Kieslowski boxed set, has some interesting features, although no film commentary. There is a thirteen-minute introduction by Kieslowski hagiographer Annette Insdorf, who did the wretched film commentaries for the Three Colors Trilogy. There is a seventeen-minute interview with Zanussi and a five-minute one with another Polish filmmaker, Agnieska Holland, as well as a filmography and trailer for the film.