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A Short Film About Killing



A Short Film About Killing (1988)

A Short Film About Killing Poster


Director: Krzysztof Kielslowski
Writer: Krzysztof Kielslowski
Starring: Miro Baka, Krzysztof Globisz, Jan Tesarz
Review By: Griff


I wanted to start off by giving a shout out to georginaguthrie over at Filmspot for suggesting I check out this movie. Whenever someone tells me I need to check out an obscure Polish film from the late 80’s, who am I to say no?

I also wanted to mention that I usually only describe the first two acts or so of any movie that I review but telling the whole story is pretty necessary when trying to explain this picture so I will talking about the entire plot. If you want to experience this film for yourself you may want to go check it out and then come back before you read this.

A little bit of back story is going to be necessary here in order to fully appreciate this review. Back in the late 80’s (and early 90‘s) Krzysztof Kielslowski directed a series for television called The Decalogue. It was a group of shorts that were based on the ten commandments. Two of these shorts were actually based on previous films. One was a A Short Film About Love and the other was A Short Film about Killing. It’s also important to note that back in 1988 two things were happening in Poland, first Communism was on its way out and the role of capital punishment in the country was being hotly debated. Kieslowski definitely does not pull any punches in how it feels about these issues.

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Ok, now that is out of the way, A Short Film About Killing is about a young sociopath named Jacek (Miroslaw Baka). He is wandering around the streets of Warsaw and appears to just be wasting time. As we follow him around, Jacek begins to reveal his personality by performing various acts of anti-social behavior in an ever increasing amount of severity. First, he scares away a large group of pigeons that an old woman is feeding. Later, he takes a rock and throws it off a bridge causing an accident. Then he pushes a man into a urinal in a public restroom. Jacek really only has one thing on his mind though, he is determined to kill someone. He has been walking around the streets with a bag containing a rope and a small metal pipe that he intends to strangle someone with. Eventually he jumps in a cab, has the driver take him to an obscure location and attempts to kill the driver. When he is having trouble strangling him to death, Jacek gets out of the car and beats the driver over the head with the pipe. Convinced that he has killed the driver, Jacek starts to drag his body down to a river to dump it. The driver isn’t dead however, and he begins to beg for his life. Jacek goes down to the river, finds a large stone, and smashes the mans face repeatedly. Then he robs him and takes off in the cab. Jacek drives to see his girlfriend and tries to convince her to take off into the mountains with him.

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The film then jumps ahead. We cut to a court room and Jacek is being convicted of the murder and sentenced to death. He is defended by a young lawyer named Piotr (Krzysztof Globisz) who is working on his first big case. Piotr goes to see Jacek on the day that he is about to be executed. Jacek confesses to Piotr that he had been drinking one day with a friend of his. His friend then went and drove a tractor while he was drunk and ended up running over Jacek’s sister. Jacek blames himself for what happened and it is the source of his rage against the world. After the confession, Jacek is dragged from his cell by the guards and escorted to the execution room. He is given one last cigarette and then tries desperately to free himself from the guards but they overpower him easily. The guards pick him up and strap him to a rope and he is hanged shocking efficiency.

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What A Short Film About Killing is really about is opening up a dialogue about the merits of capital punishment. First we see Jacek brutally murder someone and having a lot of difficulty doing it. Then later we see Jacek murder by the state with stunningly cold efficiency. The two events are in stark contrast to each other but are both brutal and uncaring in their own way.

The entire film was shot with at green filter on the lens and it adds to the feel of the movie. Warsaw is seen as a dirty and dying city, people seem washed out and dehumanized. The acts of violence although brutal, are not overly gory but they are intense and not easily forgotten. A Short Film About Killing is an excellent movie for those who aren’t afraid to stray from the mainstream. If you can find it, I recommend checking this one out. Definitely a movie that will stick with you for a few days afterwards. It gets 2 1/2 guys from me.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Armand DC March 15, 2013, 7:48 pm

    I didn’t have anything to do with this movie until now. Good thing you gave a heads-up about the potential spoilers there. I’ll add this to my watchlist!

    • Griff March 15, 2013, 10:03 pm

      Hey Armand thanks for stopping by! Let me know what you think of it after you watch it.

  • Chris March 16, 2013, 1:45 am

    I agree this film stays with you. A pretty dark story, but has aged remarkably well. Definitely check out A Short Film About Love, equally as powerful.

    You can read my thoughts on the 1 hour edit of A Short Film About Killing here:

    • Griff March 16, 2013, 2:44 pm

      Hey Chris, Thanks for stopping by. I am going to check out your review right now.

  • Georgina March 16, 2013, 2:13 am

    Excellent write-up, and I’m so glad you checked this one out!

    I like how you focused on the difference between efficiency, it really makes you realise things are never black and white, and kieslowski is a master for making us feel sympathy for Jacek. Great review, Griff! I really enjoyed reading it :) do you have any obscure classics I need to take a look at?

    • Griff March 16, 2013, 3:17 pm

      Hey Georgina, thanks again for the heads up on this one. It was a great watch. Kieslowski definitely lets you know how he feels about the issue. For me the execution was for more brutal than the murder. Let me think about some obscure stuff to check out. Off the top of my head…Have you seen Fat Girl? or Cache?

  • ckckred March 16, 2013, 5:02 am

    I definitely need to see this one…

    • Griff March 16, 2013, 3:25 pm

      Thanks for stopping by ckckred! I had a bit of time finding this one. It is available on youtube but without the subtitles. I searched all the streaming services and couldn’t find it and eventually had to get it off a torrent. I don’t endorse this behavior but I really wanted to see it…

  • Keith March 16, 2013, 7:35 am

    Solid review. I stumbled across this this a couple of years ago and you’re right, it really does stick with ya. Good stuff !

    • Griff March 16, 2013, 3:23 pm

      Hey Keith, thanks for checking out the review! Yep, this is one of those movies you find yourself thinking about for a couple of days afterwards.

  • scottydynamite March 16, 2013, 7:59 am

    I wonder how many people and things have died in movies that Mark has reviewed for Freaky Friday.

    • Griff March 16, 2013, 3:17 pm

      It’s not called Freaky Friday for nothing…

  • Joe March 16, 2013, 8:23 am

    I’m going to have to watch a comedy after just reading the review of this one. Great review Mark!

    • Griff March 16, 2013, 3:21 pm

      Thanks Joe! yeah, this one leaves you with pretty bleak outlook for a while afterwards.

  • Stephanie March 16, 2013, 3:16 pm

    This is a terrific review, Griff. Your description of this movie is fascinating, and I appreciate the fact that you explained the political context of the film. Even with your 2.5 rating, I think this sounds worth a look.

    • Griff March 16, 2013, 3:19 pm

      Hi Stephanie, Thanks for the comment! It is definitely worth checking out! Our rating system is a little bit funky. We rate on a scale of 0-3 guys so a 2.5 is actually a pretty high rating for us.

      • Stephanie March 16, 2013, 3:24 pm

        O.K. — I didn’t realize you rated on a scale of 1-3. That makes sense, because a low rating wouldn’t reflect your review. :-) Thanks again for introducing me to this movie. I really like the way you write.

  • Thomas March 16, 2013, 6:46 pm

    Thanks for alerting your readers to this great bit of European film-making. Kieslowski has left such an amazing oeuvre: the Decalogue, the Colours Trilogy, and quite a few more of his films have become formative for an intellectual, but accessible style. Maybe interesting to mention that both “Love” and “Killing” have been considerable successes at the European box office, despite their themes and style. This has not just been an influential director, but one who was everything but obscure.

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