Saturday, February 18, 2006

A Short Film About Killing

Krótki film o zabijaniu
Film Polski
Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski
Length: 81 min.
Format: DVD
Date Viewed: 17 February

A hard film to watch, Kieslowski's A Short Film about Killing is a rather good essay railing against Poland's abhorrent but now-defunct (as a result of this film) capital punishment system. It shows that the State has no justification for murdering its criminals in the same way that ordinary citizens have none for killing other citizens.

This is shown very simply and concisely through two killings: one of a taxi cab driver by a young drifter and the other of the young drifter by the State. Both murders are long and horrifying in their brutality and complete ruthlessness.

Though the film offers a good dialogue-based argument against capital punishment from the young lawyer who tries to defend the drifter, the overall argument becomes a little manipulative when it tries to partially justify the drifter's actions through the story of his dead sister. Through this tactic, co-writers Kieslowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz try to humanize the drifter, who is the victim of the State, but elsewhere, the writers does not humanize the cabbie, who is the victim of the drifter, or the State, the arbiter of legalized execution. They do this to subtly suggest that the execution by the the State was worse than that by the drifter, when in fact, they are both equal. The film would have been much stronger if either all three of the major entities had been humanized, or if none had been.

As stated, the film is quite good and undoubtedly thought-provoking, but the subtle manipulation throws A Short Film About Killing slightly off and keeps it from being a truly great film.


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