‘Kielsowski on Kieslowski’ from the Chapter entitled “Background”

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For us Europeans, going back to the family home represents a certain value which exists in our traditions, in our history and also in our culture. You can find it in the Odyssey, and literature, theatre and art throughout the ages have very often taken up the subject of the family home as a place which constitutes a set of values…the family home is an essential point in our lives. Americans don’t understand this notion. I don’t understand America but I tried to figure out what lay at the bottom of this, and I remembered a certain story.

…Flying to America. Sitting next to me is this guy. Well, I want to take a nap or read a book and not talk to the guy but unfortunately, he was talkative…and started up a conversation. ‘What do you do,’ he says. ‘I make films,’ I say. He says, ‘That’s very interesting.’ I say, ‘Yes, it is.’ He says, ‘I make windows, you know.’ ‘That’s very interesting,’  I say. ‘Yes, yes,’ he says, ‘incredibly interesting. ‘I was being sarcastic, of course, but he took me literally and started telling me this story. It turned out that he manufactured windows in Germany.  He’s a German. We didn’t have any problems understanding each other because his English was just like mine. It was much easier to talk to him than to an American or Englishman.

And what happens in the story? He is going to America just like me.Well, this guy has the biggest and best window factories in Germany. They make the best windows. They sell the windows in Germany with quite a high price and a fifty-year guarantee. Of course, the Germans happily buy them because, being practical, they think that if something has a fifty-year guarantee on it, then it won’t break for fifty years. Because this guy’s the best window manufacturer in Germany, like every European who has excelled in something, he wants to do the same in America. So he opened a factory in America. And he says to me, ‘look, I opened this factory, I make really fantastic windows, I tell you. I made out a fifty-year guarantee. I set a price. Nobody wanted to buy the windows. Nobody. Simply nobody. I put a lot of money into advertising – newspapers, television, whatever. I sent out leaflets. I sent out catalogs, whatever you can think of. But nobody wanted to buy these windows. So I lowered the guarantee to twenty years but left the same price. And listen, they started to buy the windows. I lowered the guarantee to ten years. Left the same price. They started to buy four times the number of windows. Right now, I’m going to Amerca to buy a second factory and lower the guarantee to five years. The price is going to stay the same. They’re buying the windows. Why are they buying windows with a five-year guarantee and not a fifty-year guarantee? Because they just can’t imagine sitting in one place for fifty years. It’s inconceivable to them.’

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