A Short Film About Killing

A Short Film About Killing (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1987)

The plot couldn't be simpler or its attack on capital punishment (and the act of killing in general) more direct - a senseless, violent, almost botched murder is followed by a cold, calculated, flawlessly performed execution (both killings shown in the most graphic detail imaginable), while the murderer's idealistic young defence lawyer ends up as an unwilling accessory to the judicial murder of his client.

A grey Poland of the late 1980’s is the setting of this longer part of The Dekalog that Kieslowski based on the Ten Commandments making a one hour film about each of the ten orders of God.

We are following a young man (Miroslav Baka) who plans to murder a man (Jan Tesarz) for no apparent reason. With almost no dialogues, Kieslowski takes us on the journey to a cold blooded murder, the trial of the murderer and his execution. The most attaching character here is the young advocate brilliantly portrayed by Krzysztof Globisz. Humanity is in this sensible man and his compassion and culpability are vectors of our feelings of the whole film.

It is a dark film that observe the worst in men, having to destroy someone’s life. Even if condemned to death penalty, killing a life is killing a life even if a judge gives a judgment.
Kieslowski’s films have their fans and his three Couleurs trilogy has earned lots of praise. I admire his work but I’m not a huge fan of his films. They are very claustrophobic and are not as interesting as let’s say another Polish director named Roman Polanski.
I have not seen The Dekalog yet and I hope it will change my mind on the director, but I’m starting to believe that he is one of the overrated European director of the 1980’s; a decade where American films were categorized as too commercial and not as good as the American films of the 1970’s.

Maybe because I’ve been wanting to catch this film for such a long time or because I evolved as a cinephile and I am not a in such a dark mood anymore, but I think that A Short Film About Killing is interesting in some ways but at 84 minutes a film should not feel that long and extended with filling scenes that might not have helped the story to develop into a strong film.

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