Polish Cinema: Tramwaj (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1966, Poland)

Tramway (Tramwaj) is one of the first short films directed by legendary Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieslowski, made while he was a student at the famous film school in Lodz. The film opens with a title card and music, followed by the image of a young man standing alone at a party. We close in on the man's face - he looks guarded, or lonely. He walks outside into the winter setting and then runs to catch his tram. He barely catches the tram. The tram is full of what seems to be workers, and the young man punches his ticket.

The young man sees a young woman on the train, and the two trade eye contact. This furtive eye contact continues, as the man and woman look back and forth at each other. The tram is now empty. The woman now smiles at the man, and the man also smiles back at her. We see him chew a piece of gum and look up at the top of the train car, while the woman continues to smile at him. We see the exterior of the tram car, and the man begins walking toward the woman at the back of the tram. 

Her eyes are closed and we see her face in closeup. It is not clear if she is resting or pretending to rest. The man seems to make a gesture but then moves away. He walks off the train, the taps on the glass outside her window. The tram car pulls away from him. Despite being only five minutes in length, this film is charming and embodies a lot of the thematic preoccupations of Kieslowski's later work, including chance encounters. There is a beautiful naturalism to the film enhanced by the black and white cinematography, that lends a timeless quality to Tramway



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