Friday, February 8, 2008

A Short Film About Killing

Krótki film o zabijaniu; Drama/ Crime, Poland, 1988; D: Krzysztof Kieslowski, S: Miroslaw Baka, Krzysztof Globisz, Jan Tesarz, Zbigniew Zapasiewicz, Barbara Dziekan, Aleksander Bednarz

Warsaw. Jacek is an antisocial delinquent who walks aimlessly through the streets. Piotr is an idealistic young lawyer who wants to abolish the death penalty. A mean taxi driver doesn't accept "unusual" customers. Jacek randomly enters his cab and tells him to drive to an abandoned place, where he strangles and kills him. He is caught and brought to a trial where he is sentenced to a death penalty, despite the fact that he was defended by Piotr. He tells the young lawyer that everything could have turned out differently hadn't he ran away from his home when his beloved and only sister died at the age of 12 when she was ran over by a tractor. In the end, he is hanged.

An expanded version of the fifth episode of his own "The Decalogue", Krzysztof Kieslowski's "A Short Film About Killing" has some gruesome and dark elements expected for such subject, yet thanks to the director's humanity it's still much more emotional and humane than it could have been in the hands of some cold director. Starting off with disturbing images of a dead rat in the sewer and a dead cat hanging from a rod to which it's tied up, the story subtly goes into a deep analysis of crime, punishment and the causes of antisocial behavior, cleverly questioning some of the old cliches of black and white criminals: the main protagonist, the angry and antisocial 21-year old Jacek, is at first shown as an evil person (he randomly chases away the pigeons some old lady was feeding; pushes a man urinating in the public toilet to the ground), culminating in his gruesome, painfully long murder of a taxi driver, while the camera films his scenes with unusual "foggy" lens around the edges, as if showing his surreal feelings towards the world. At the same time, as a contrast, the young and idealistic lawyer Piotr is shown, who wants clearly quotes Marx by saying: "since Cain the world has neither been intimidated nor ameliorated by punishment". Poetic and contemplative, the movie offers a few deep thoughts about the roots of evil (in the surprising finale, Jacek almost turns out to be a good person, just a deeply frustrated man and a victim of the cruel world) and the cycle of violence, yet it doesn't hit the right nerve as hard as one would expect because it seems rather thin and overstretched, even though Kieslowski is never as boring as some other demanding authors.


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