Krzysztof Zanussi is a Polish filmmaker. Born in 1939 in Warsaw, Zanussi studied physics at the University of Warsaw, then philosophy at the University of Krakow. Shortly after the age of twenty he began to make his first short films and with Tramsaj do nieba (The Tram to Heaven) he enroled at the Lódz Film Academy, from which he graduated in 1966 and where he later taught.
The important period of art in Zanussi's life probably took place in the 1970s when a specific character was created, one that became the quintessential hero of Zanussi's films: a man faced with a choice between values and the temptation of their rejection. The hallmark characteristic is moral sensitivity expressed in the compromise between the sphere of dreams regarding individual freedom and a life practice restricting this freedom.
His most important films are: his debut feature-length Struktura krysztalu, 1969 (The Structure of Crystal), Zycie rodzinne (Family Life, 1971, in Competition at Cannes film Festival), Illuminacja (The Illumination, 1973, Golden Leopard and Jury Prize at Locarno), Bilans kwartalny (A Woman’s Decision, 1975, winner of the OCIC award at the Berlin Film Festival), Spirala (Spiral, 1978) and Constans (The Constant Factor, 1980), both winners of the Ecumenical Prize of the Jury at Cannes.
In 1981 he won the European David di Donatello. In 1982, he returned to the Venice Film Festival with Imperativ (Imperative), which won the Special Jury Prize. Two years later he won the Golden Lion for Best Film at the 41st Venice Film Festival with Rok Spokojnego slonca (A Year of the Quiet Sun).
Zanussi won also the Montréal World Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival, Tokyo Film Festival, Moscow International Film Festival, New York Film Critics Circle Awards, Pusan International Film Festival etc., complete list at: www.imdb.com/name/nm0953130/awards.
Zanussi's films are regarded as examples of "auteur cinema". He wrote the script to almost all his films. He encouraged actors to improvise, using the technique of open dialogue. Zanussi thereby intended to: “...characterise the heroes in a not-so-obvious way, leaving a margin for understatement, the primacy of the mood of the plot while building dramatic tension results from a collision of psychological or moral rational”.
Zanussi made more than thirty films for the big screen and television. His most recent works include: Persona non grata, in competition at Venice film Festival in 2005, The Black Sun (2007), Serce na dloni (2008), Rewizyta (2009), Inner Voice (2013) and Foreign Body (2014).
He served as vice president of Polish Filmmakers' Association (1971 -1983), and as chairman of the Polish Federation of Film Discussion Clubs (1975-1977). He was elected President of the European Federation of Audiovisual Performers in 1990.
Zanussi has received the titles of doctor honoris causa at the Moscow Film Institute WGiK (1998), European University in Minsk (2001), National University of Theatre and Film in Bucharest (2001), New Bulgarian University (2002), State University of Television and Film in St. Petersburg (2004), and Catholic University in Valencia (2004). He is also a professor at the European Graduate School Saas-Fee, Switzerland. He is a director of the Polish Film Studio TOR.
In 1998, on Piotrkowska Street in Łódź, Zanussi's star was unveiled on the Walk of Fame.
The director states, regarding his approach to art:
You are only an artist when you know how to do something well in five different ways, and can choose the one that is best.
Going against the wall:
I realized that I would have to fight for my films - to defend my artistic freedom.