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Film / Blind Chance

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Will he make it? Won't he?

Blind Chance (Przypadek) is a Polish film by Krzysztof Kieślowski (also the director of The Decalogue, The Double Life of Veronique, and the Three Colors Trilogy), filmed in 1981 but not released until 1987 for political reasons. The premise of the film was later recycled in German Run Lola Run and American Sliding Doors, among others.

Witek, a university student in a provincial Polish city, has just lost his father and, unsure what to do with his life, decides to go to Warsaw. He makes it to the station at the last minute and rushes to catch his train. He doesn't know it, but whether he makes it is going to determine which turn his life will take.

In the first iteration, he does make it. In the train, he becomes acquainted with a man who, although he was once a victim of a political purge, has remained a committed Communist. Witek is talked into joining the Party and, in the following few years, his earnest commitment results in his rising through the ranks. He is eventually invited to an international congress in France, but as he is about to board the plane, dissidents stage a demonstration in the airport, preventing him from leaving.


In the second iteration, as he is running on the platform, Witek knocks to the ground a railway guard and gets arrested by the police. Sentenced to community labor, he gets to meet political dissidents who convince him to convert to Catholicism and join their anti Communist movement. He applies for a passport in order to take a plane to France where his fellow activists have contacts, but the authorities have blacklisted him and he finds himself unable to leave.

In the third iteration, Witek misses the train but, while in the station, he spots a female friend, and goes back to his place with her, where they have sex. He decides to stay and complete his medical studies. Remaining politically uninvolved one way or the other, he marries his girlfriend and works on his doctorate. The dean of the university gives him the opportunity to go on a trip to Libya to give academic lectures. With neither dissidents nor authorities in his way, he boards the plane without hassle.


This film provides examples of:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: When the dean starts his "examination" of Witek, he cracks up and starts to smile.
  • Angsty Surviving Twin: The angst part is heavily repressed, but Witek originally had a brother, who died along with their mother at birth.
  • Age-Gap Romance: Wera is a decade older than Witek.
  • Anti-Role Model: Witek becomes an active member of ZMP and a pawn for the Party. Everybody but him understands what that really means.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: When the junkies list their complains, the guy in charge mentions their private letters being read, no visits, constant supervision... and the fact he got made the group leader
    Group Leader: Do I look like one?
  • Ask a Stupid Question...:
    Witek: Then what do you want?
    Junky: Can't you read? (points to a nearby board that has demands written on it)
  • Bedlam House: The detox center, where Going Cold Turkey is apparently used intentionally for didactic pusposes, despite it being a really stupid idea from medical point of view. The entire facility is run like it was a prison, patients are treated with open contempt, in part due to politicsnote .
  • Betty and Veronica: Czuszka is Veronica, being promiscuous, having had three abortions and being an atheist ("czuszka" by the way, is a small Bulgarian hot pepper); Wera is Betty, calm, religiously-curious, but also pretty bland and very much a satellite character. It's worth to note Witek is never really conflicted about choosing between them, since he meets the women in mutually exclusive timelines. His wife from third story, Olga, is outside this trope entirely.
  • Big "NO!": The film opens with Witek suddenly screaming "NOOOOO!" on board of an airplane.
  • Blackmail: In the second story, Witek is given a choice - either became The Mole and rat out his contacts in the underground, or never get the passport. He stays in the country.
  • Blatant Lies: The railway guard adds "urinating in public place" to his charges, even though he knows it wasn't Witek who did that.
  • Butterfly of Doom: The events in the train station are just the aftermath of a much more important event. After his father's death, Witek asks the dean for a few days to think things over. The rest of the story, including catching (or not) the fated train, follows from the choice that he made during this quiet downtime.
  • Bystander Syndrome: When Witek enters Adam's office, he goes directly to punching Adam and keeps on attacking, with other people present, but staring in confusion. Eventually Adam, also confused by their stupor, shouts for help.
    Adam: What the fuck, don't you have hands?!
  • Call-Back:
    • Both the second and the third iteration make nods to the previous one(s).
    • By the end of the third version, the opening Big "NO!" is put in a much different context.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Both Werner and Adam were beaten into bloody pulp by State Sec under false accusations in the early 50s. Werner still has a limp because of it.
  • Cool Aunt/Cool Old Lady: Witek's aunt, who at the same time is capable of scolding him like a little boy, show genuine affection, replace his mother and be both supportive to and frightened of his dissident activities.
  • Cool Old Guy: The medical dean, "checking" Witek for symptoms of his heart to study medicine returning.
  • Create Your Own Villain: In the second version Witek goes from a politically neutral, apathetic guy to a youth movement activist solely because he was sentenced to public work. Which is the sentence dissidents and activists routinely get, which essentially gives him reasons, contacts and means to actively oppose the regime. This darkly mirrors real life issues with one-time criminals turning into life of crime due to doing time and how the communist regime was actively making its opponents stronger and better organised.
    Judge: I hope the punishment fulfills its educative function.
  • Cryptic Conversation:
    • His terminally ill father calls Witek from the hospital, only to have very ambiguous exchange, pretty hard to translate due to the sheer ambiguity and the difference in grammatical structures between Polish and Englishnote .
      Father: I wanted to tell you this, because you might not make it on timenote . You don't have to do anything.
      Witek: I don't have to do anything in what way?
      Father: In any way.
    • There is also Werner's entire backstory and the different dialogues with Czuszka that suggest she takes part in underground printing and/or smuggling of books.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Unlike Werner, who was simply broken by the Party and never recovered, Adam has this attitude to the very system which first ruined his life and then allowed him to flourish.
    Adam: You can't change it as outsider, but you can work from the inside.
  • Defector from Decadence: Both Werner and Adam, and to a different degree, too. Adam is very open about his lack of faith in the system, looking for realistic ways to fix it, while Werner is an idealist who wants to reform it from the inside, using youth movements.
  • Description Cut: Right after being asked by his aunt what it is that he does, exactly, the scene cuts to a Solidarity meeting in his flat.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: Both in the first and the second story, Witek is searching for his niche in the world, ending up in the opposite extremes. He only finds his true calling when he doesn't take any side and just lives his own life, in the third version of events.
  • Downer Ending/Call-Back: The scream during the opening was Witek screaming before the plane explodes in the finale.
  • Dramatic Irony: Witek can't leave the country when siding with the Party, because he's needed to help quell the protests; but he can't leave when he's a dissident, either, because he didn't want to rat out his contacts and thus was denied a passport. He also can't leave even when he's un-involved with politics whatsoever, because the plane he's on blows up with no survivors before it even makes it past city limits!!.
  • Driven to Suicide: One of the problems in the rehab center is its suicide rate quickly rising. Turns out the patients simply can't cope with being treated like dirt.
  • Establishing Character Moment: In the first iteration, Witek without a word or any prior indication wants to help the junkie to escape the train that's delivering him to the state-run rehab.
  • First Girl Wins: In the first iteration of the story, at least. Czuszka was Witek's first girlfriend and they end up together in this version of events.
  • For Want of a Nail: The storyline is an example of Alternate History at the individual level. Have one small detail play out differently, and a man's entire life will change as a result.
  • Foreign Remake:
  • Happily Married: Witek with Olga in the third story. He finally manages to create a meaningful relationship with someone.
  • I Surrender, Suckers: After assaulting Adam, Witek is subdued and apparently calms down. The moment he's let go, he instantly throws another punch in Adam's stomach.
  • In Spite of a Nail:
    • In each incarantion of the story Witek considers the Party to be bunch of assholes and is on different levels of disillusion with it and the system.
    • Dean's son is caught in story 2 and 3 for printing, with or without Witek taking part in the operation.
  • Internal Reformist: Adam and Witek discuss them (note the plural) as the only way of salvaging the system, with Adam basically trying to groom Witek into such role and make him his successor throughout the first story. It is implied he was one of these himself in the late 60s when the ruling clique got replaced.
  • Just Before the End: The Party's members in the first story are well aware that the system is falling apart. Adam talks openly about it. This is part of why the film was originally banned. And for us, who know how this played out, it almost feels prophetic.
  • Lampshade Hanging:
    Witek: A month ago I've missed a train right here. If I hadn't, I wouldn't be here with you now.
  • Living on Borrowed Time: The old lady working as a courier from the underground. Her doctor gave her three years... Twelve years back. So she ain't afraid of nuthin'.
  • Magic Realism/Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane/Riddle for the Ages: There is no real explaination of WHY Witek lives through the story three times - if he really does. The events simply restart on their own accord, each time with minor changes at the train station, which are also left unexplained. There is also his wife sensing something wrong about the flight and asking him not to go.
  • Missed the Bus: Probably the Trope Codifier.
  • Missing Mom: Witek's mom died during childbirth, but she could have been saved - if it hadn't been Poznań in June 1956, and the doctors hadn't been busy with other patients.
  • Mistaken for Spies: Someone rats out the illegal printing operation and Witek is branded as the traitor, because he can't provide any alibi. Or rather - is unwilling to do so, since his alibi would be fooling around with Wera, a married woman.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Witek demands Czuszka to tell him about all her previous partners, but when she starts describing them in detail, he gets more and more uncomfortable, and eventually just silences her with his hand.
    • Thanks to having been too open with Adam, Witek causes Czuszka and her friends to be arrested and everyone takes him for The Stool Pigeon.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Witek is suprisingly gullible in the first iteration of the story, when acting on Party's behalf. However, unlike his superiors, he's not ok with the idea of junkies burning the detox facility down or commiting suicide - all of which the Party's elders are perfectly fine with as a "self-solving" problem of the "degenerate drug addicts".
  • Narrating the Obvious:
    Werner: Didn't want to run away?
    Witek: No.
    Werner: Sometimes people don't run away. Because they don't want to.
  • No Infantile Amnesia: Witek apparently remembers his own birth. Which involves his mother in labour, left to her own devices on the hospital's floor, while the doctors are busy with an influx of wounded and dying protesters.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: And achieved completely unintentionally. Censorship not only banned the film, they cut out the scene in which policemen beat Witek up when he's arrested. Only the audio part survived. Hence, in the restored version, a text screen explains why there is no video, while the audio consisting of the struggle, beat-up and grunts is still played.
  • Oh, Crap!: Witek has this reaction the very moment he mentions Czuszka's friends and their secret publishing ring, having forgotten he's not talking to a friend, but to a Party's official.
  • Order Versus Chaos: Adam express his belief to Witek this way: even if the system will crash, there still must be someone to pick up and restore any order, rather than allowing anarchy, and the political ideology details don't really matter.
  • Police Brutality: At the start of the second story, Witek gets beaten up by the police upon being arrested. This was the official reason why the film was banned, to the point of censorship outright destroying that part of the tape, leaving only audio in their storage. In the next scene, in court, Witek has visible bruises and a cut on his face.
  • Precognition: Olga, Witek's wife, asks him not to fly to Libya, because she's having a bad feeling about the flight.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: The sound of the plane exploding is delayed significantly. Which is how it would really work, due to the difference between the speed of light (noticing the explosion) and sound (hearing it).
  • Rule of Three: Three different stories with the same starting point.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: The third iteration concludes with Witek calmly boarding a plane to go for a conference, only for the plane to explode right after the take-off.
  • Satellite Love Interest: Both Czuszka and Wera. They don't play any significant role in the story and the entire focus is put on Witek's relationship with them and how they make him less lonely. Despite being the most briefly shown of all three, his relationship and eventual marriage with Olga averts this.
  • Significant Birth Date: And place - Witek was born in Poznań, 27th June 1956.
  • Smoking Hot Sex: That's how we even can establish Witek and Czuszka had sex at all. He's also smoking when in bed with his wife in the third iteration.
  • Time-Compression Montage: The film opens with a sequence showing different bits of Witek's life prior to the events at the train station. He also meets all three of his love interests during those.
  • Time Skip: Used frequenly and without any direct indication of happening. It's most notable when Witek's son goes from being barely detectable fetus to few months old infant within span of two scenes. In all three iterations, there are few years between the opening railway station scene and the airport finale - this is easiest to spot in the third one, as we see Witek's university yearbook and then his growing up son.
  • True Love Is Boring: Averted. Witek's marriage in third story is perfect in absolutely every regard, but the story doesn't lose its dramatic tension. Thus, his sudden and unexpected death in the end gains extra emotional impact.
  • 2 + Torture = 5: Invoked when talking about Stalinist period and how Werner just had to be a spy, even if he wasn't.
  • Unexpected Genre Change: The whole "three different stories inside" gig isn't obvious until suddenly the second iteration of events starts.
  • Unreliable Expositor: There are several indications that Witek's memories are actually what he wishes had happened rather than real happenings.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: The dean asks Witek to fill in for him at the conference, indirectly leading to his death.
  • The Voice: While we hear a female voice, we never see the judge sentencing Witek.
  • Yes-Man: Werner is reduced into one of these by his time in prison and all the torture. He is also shown to uncritically praise Adam without paying much attention to what he just said and proposed.