A Short Film About Killing (Original title Krótki film o zabijaniu) is a Polish crime film released in 1988, directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski. The movie follows three different men doing stuff.
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The IMDb synopsis reads: “A soon-to-be lawyer crosses his path with a taxi driver and a young sinister man.”
That’s not it, at all.
The first character, Waldemar Rekowski (played by Jan Tesarz), is a taxi driver. He is avoiding a lot of potential passengers and being a douchebag to random people in the streets.
Then there’s Jacek (played by Miroslaw Baka), a creepy (or sinister, as IMDb put it) young man. He seems to be just messing around and being a douchebag to random people in the streets while looking for a taxi.
The last one is Piotr (played by Krzysztof Globisz), who’s doing sort of a job interview or a bar examination to become a public defender and not being a douchebag to anyone.
Eventually there’s a killing in the film, as the title suggests. And that’s all I feel comfortable saying about the plot for now.
Back to that IMDb synopsis without spoiling anything. The idea that a soon-to-be lawyer crosses path with anyone is misleading. For the vast part of the movie, the three men go their ways separately, and that’s really important to the feelings the film brings up.
The title already says the film is about killing, but you don’t know who will die, who will kill, how it’ll unfold. Sometimes I’ve even thought that the death had already happened. The fact is that you don’t know anything, but you keep wondering, and that’s great.
Then, the crime happens, and it’s very graphic. Usually, murders in Cinema are quick and easy, but this one is not. It’s gruesome and realistic, as if you were watching a real crime unfold.
The crime and the consequences of it raise some moral issues. Considering the deplorable behavior of Jacek and Waldemar, how should we feel about their deaths?! Note that I’m not saying who dies and who doesn’t.
Another moral issue foreshadowed in Piotr’s interview and brought up again later is capital punishment. Piotr quotes Karl Marx: “… since Cain the world has neither been intimidated nor ameliorated by punishment.” The link for the full text will be in the description box below.
I won’t discuss this issue and expose my personal view right now because it’s irrelevant at this point. I believe the filmmakers were provoking us to think about it, so I prefer to leave each viewer with his/her reflections for now. Maybe we can get back to the theme some other time.
The title gives away two attributes about the movie, one of them we already talked about is the killing part. The other one is its short length, my least favorite aspect of the film.
I like shorter films that don’t drag for too long. However, with only one hour and twenty-four minutes, I felt the movie had much more to offer and that a little more length would be really beneficial.
The three characters are quite compelling. Jacek and Waldemar as complex individuals, mostly awful, but with their few (very few) redeeming qualities. The best of both of them is how intriguing they are.
Piotr is a humane man in all of this mess. He’s also the opposite of the destruction and death present in the movie. Beginning a new family and with a baby on the way, I believe he represents the other side of the spectrum: life and hope.
The acting is all pretty good, really credible. The three main guys are the most noticeable, of course, they are flawless. But there are also some funny moments from the extras, like this girl genuinely laughing, which was the same exact reaction I was having.
A Short Film About Killing has very peculiar cinematography. I like it. It looks like a much older film, with a vignette, faded colors, and a dusty look, yet it’s really visually pleasing.
The contrast of lights and shadows is impeccable, one of my favorite things about the movie’s cinematography. All of these aspects culminate in a perfect atmosphere for the tense suspense unfolding in front of us.
The execution of the murder scene is very admirable for making it convincing without over-relying on the visual effects or gore. The scene is a great example of less is more.
As usual, let’s wrap things up with the score. It’s barely even there, really subtle, and only present in a few key moments. It was the perfect approach, not invasive nor manipulative, letting the events affect us by themselves.
A Short Film About Killing is an excellent movie in almost every aspect. It’s short, intriguing, and thought-provoking. I really loved it. I’ll give A Short Film About Killing (A.K.A. Krótki film o zabijaniu) 9 Moons.
That’s it for now.
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