Friday, 14 July 2017

Camera Buff (Amator) 1979

A clever metaphor for censorship and personal repression in Communist Poland, Krzysztof Kieślowski's Camera Buff (Amator in the native Polish) tells the story of factory worker Filip Mosz (Jerzy Stuhr) who purchases an 8mm film camera to record for posterity the homecoming and the first days of life of his newborn daughter. On hearing that an employee possesses such a camera, the local Communist Party director asks Filip to film the upcoming jubilee celebration of the factory. Viewed a success, Filip's employers encourage him to start an amateur film club based at the plant where they are expected to record the happy and contented daily life of its workers. Filip's latent skills and newfound fascination with film sees him attract the attentions of the wider film community and lead to him pushing the boundaries of what is expected of him by his employers. His passion quickly becomes all-consuming, to the detriment of his previous, simple life as an ordinary worker and family man - a life that he starts to view as restrictive and uninteresting. 

Kieślowski's film accurately emphasises the power of film and the responsibility of the filmmaker, and never more so than in Filip's desire to capture the story of a dwarf whose anniversary at the plant coincides with the jubilee. This project is met with disapproval from the CP director who claims Filip is only interested in 'making fun of a cripple', but in reality is concerned that his plant will be laughed at for employing such a worker. Undeterred, Filip digs his heels in and makes the movie, attracting the interest of the local TV company who broadcast it.On seeing the result, the diminutive factory worker is overcome with emotion at Filip's ability to convey a life he had viewed as unexceptional and to give him a voice. However, in going against the wishes of his employer and the party with his increasingly truthful filmed observations, Filip finds that his talent and ability is something that can destroy the lives of others, losing one of his key supporters his job.

Ultimately, the film ends with Filip realising how his prized camera can be both a tool for creation and for destruction. Like a gun, he turns the 'weapon' onto himself and begins to relate the story of his life since undertaking this hobby. A year has passed and he has gone from a married man with a new baby and an ordinary role at the plant to an estranged husband and father and filmmaker. In the end, Filip perhaps recalls all too late that the camera was supposed to capture nothing more than his own home life and not the lives of others.

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