This is more from the book, Carnal Thoughts: Embodiment and Moving Image Culture by Vivian Sobchack (2004). In this chapter, she’s using the films of Krzysztof Kieślowski as exemplars of her points. Beginning in midstream (you’ll figure it out):
… We are, of course, always trying to make conscious and rational sense of this “astonishment at being” — particularly when this astonishment emerges in a less than sanguine manner to threaten our quotidian sense of agency and fixed identity and to shock us into recognition of our vulnerability, contingence, and ontological inability to control our lives. In this regard, Claude Lévi-Strauss is illuminating. Writing of the “savage mind” and its quite sophisticated modes of making embodied sense of the material world and our existential vulnerability to the hazards of a “happenstance” beyond rational thought or control, he tells us (in a somewhat droll construction): “It must be acknowledged that so-called primitive people have managed to evolve not unreasonable methods for inserting irrationality, in its dual aspect of logical contingence and emotional turbulence, into rationality.”
In what follow, then, I want to focus on these dual aspects of irrationality, particularly as they are dramatized by Krzysztof Kieślowski’s “harsh dialectics” and “concrete metaphysics” — that is, by the cinematic visibility of his philosophical gaze at the world and at the hazardous thrown-ness that informs human existence in both its objectivity and subjectivity. On the one side, this gaze is focused on the irrational effects of “logical contingence,” on the risky and accidental nature and function of being materially concrete and immanent. On the other side, this gaze is focused on the irrational affects of “emotional turbulence,” on the unstable nature and function of the immaterial and transcendent subject thrown by the material consequences of existence.
[ … ]
For Kieslowski there is no hierarchy in “co-incidence.” Caused and causal but highly complex and nonlinear, the material coincidence of people and people and people and things is far beyond the human powers of calculation — although we are, nonetheless, quite literally responsible for their sum, this merely by virtue of being or not being here or there in a particular network of consequential convergences. In this regard Kieslowski is particularly attuned to the moment in which, as philosopher Alphonso Lingis suggests, “the passage of facts begins also to project ahead like an exigency; what congeals as a form constitutes a matrix for variation. The nascent meaning is pregnant in the facts, it begins in a conjuncture of contingencies.” Both chance (“the passage of facts”) and fate (the projection of an “exigency”) emerge and are confused in the concrete space-time of material coincidence, which, in nature and effect, is at once, both chaotic and ordered.
… [In a biographical documentary film about the filmmaker] Kieslowski himself speaks of “a kind of secret metaphysics” in existence that can’t be reduced or “censored” — this statement followed and underscored by a shot of neat row houses whose initial order and complacency are undone by the incompatible, unmotivated and coincidental appearance of an elephant walking down the street in front of them. In sum, Kieslowski’s cinematic vision — and, in key moments of reflexive awareness, the gaze of his characters — expands to admit something within existence that is always potentially both awful and awesome in its obdurate materiality, its nonanthropocentric presence, and its assertion of the existential equality of all things, human and animate or otherwise. This vision of existential equality nullifies the primacy and privilege of human existence, meaning, and order yet simultaneously affirms human existence as always also transcendent and meaningful. With this gaze “man” is reduced as a privileged “being,” but existence is amplified as an expansive field of “becoming.” Thus, whether filmmaker, character, or spectator, depending on one’s perspective and depending on how willing one is to concede the seemingly secure fixity of human identity and privilege, experiencing oneself as the subject — or object — of such an expansive and nonanthropocentric gaze can be threatening or liberating.
[ … ]
… by pointing to and foregrounding concretely immanent entities as both transcendent of our purpose and yet consequential to our lives, Kieslowski constructs the meaning and being of the concrete and immanent as never fixed, as never “cut down” to our size — even as they are “cut out” and temporarily arrested by his frame. In his films things are pregnant with possibility; they swell in existential stature. Indeed, neither are they merely the practico-inert, nor are they safely secured as poetic symbols; rather, they exist and take on weight and value in a continuous motion of postponement.
This book, Carnal Thoughts: Embodiment and Moving Image Culture by Vivian Sobchack (2004), is really good. Highly recommended if you like what I’ve posted from it so far.