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Unlike the other masterpiece in his Decalogue, Killing, in 'A Short Film
About Love' Kieslowski treats the subject of love with an extraordinarily
delicate, rather than a polemic, eye. As ever he manages to express more
with subtlety than most directors ever will with expression: it is rather
what is not said, what is not expressed, that leaves an indelible mark upon
Olaf Lubaszenko's central performance as the boy is, rather than 'opaque' as it has been termed, engrossing from the start. His innocence and fragility, just like the film's, are an invitation to the intimacy we progressively acquire. We, the film's audience, watch engrossed and exposed just as does he, and, in another sense, does the subject of his observations. His telescope becomes a direct motif; distance, separation, enlargement: all the things the filmmaker provides for the viewer. Thus, at emotional, intellectual and metacinematic levels the film explores its themes: observation and love.
While it may not come to solid conclusions (nor ought it to), the sensitivity with which the director watches his actors is utterly compelling. The resultant negotiation between man and women, subject and observer, viewer and filmmaker is a relationship, a love affair. Perhaps Barthes might have sought to go further, waiting for the end of the film, its 'death', to find psychological and sexual consummation to such an affair, and the film may support such a reading. Even a far less academic approach is sufficient, however, in order to enjoy the work at it appears at face value. We do not need to analyse in order to feel, and it is the film's emotional impact that remains when our brief voyeurism, our visit to the cinema, ends.
Kieslowski's movies are very unique in the sense of reflecting on
feelings. One needs to think outside of the box and try to go beyond
the surface... His goal is not to create an average love story, but to
put love bare as it is in the center. What is love? One could list a
number of adjectives, to say the least; but instead let's just use one
sentence: love wants nothing in return. To love and being loved, two
sides of a coin, is presented to us in this beautiful movie. Little
conversation, nice music, great frames and shots, well-chosen actors,
actresses, although very few; intense, touching, and serious.
It helps a bit if the watcher knows some about Eastern-European culture. But it is by no means necessary. One should only have been given the gift of being loved and to have loved.
I invite viewers of this film to compare it with the short version
(Dekalog 6) and the script. All three differ from one another. They
have different endings and lead to different interpretations.
In this film, the feature length version, Kieslowski portrays human love poetically, authentically, and powerfully. I consider Tomek as a lover by the form of incarnation. He takes into different forms (post worker, milkman, voyeur) in order to show his love towards Magda. It is important to notice that Tomek sheds his blood when Magda has sex with others. There is a scene in which Magda spills a bottle of milk and cries. Tomek sees her from his telescope. Only he is present for Magda. Overall, Tomek's love is both sacrificial and redemptive.
After Tomek's hospitalization, Magda dresses more conservatively. She does not engage in sexual affairs with any man. In this sense, Tomek's love redeems the lustful Magda. The commandment (Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery) functions in the background. We normally perceive a voyeur as being adulterous. But in Tomek's situation, he peeps into Magda not as an adulterous voyeur. He loves Magda by peeping her as an incarnate. He expresses sacrificial, and redemptive love in a humane and authentic manner.
sorry about the summary title, but i hate pithiness. this is, of course, more than just a film i like. it's beautiful. the scene when the woman fantasizes about what might have been with the boy is heartrending, and you don't have to have lived in communist East Europe to understand her sense of loneliness. others think that "A Short Film about Killing" was the stand out from the Dekalog, but to me this is the director's finest achievement, and the harshest and boldest treatment of love that you could see on celluloid. The most important film of my life.
I have watched this movie 10 years ago when I was feeling that love was an
impossible happiness to achieve and it always accompanied disappointments.
Now that I am a happy man and I am not so pessimistic about love and life. However, this movie still fills my soul with wonder: How can love, disappointments and life be described so beautiful, like a poem, stylish and touching...
I will remember it as long as I believe in love.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The only criticism I would have of this enthralling Polish language
film by the great Polish-French director Krzysztof Kieslowski is his
use of the "opened window" conceit. Magda (Grazyna Szapolowska) is a
woman who lives alone in a high rise housing development. She is sexy
and cynical to the point of not believing in love. To her it is all
desire, and the fulfillment or frustration of desire. Across the way
from her lives a virginal young man by the name of Tomek (Olaf
Lubaszenko) who has been spying on her from his apartment window
through a telescope.
He lives with a friend's mother (Stefania Iwinska) who looks after him as her own son. He works in the post office and obsesses about Magda's life. He watches her with her beaux. He even goes so far as to write a couple of phony money order slips for her and put them in her mailbox just so she will have to go to his window and ask about them. When she does he is able to examine her features closely. Is his an obsession or is it love? Kieslowski's answer is that it is love, love with the kind of depth and feeling that Magda cannot even imagine until she experiences it. And then she is amazed and dumbfounded.
The key scene in the movie occurs when Tomek is finally able to be together with the object of his love, in her apartment, with her telling him that "When a woman wants a man she gets wet inside." And she invites him to check it out, so to speak. But what happens does not lead to any kind of fulfillment. Instead Tomek is inadvertently humiliated.
And that's the story, more or less. As usual with Kieslowski, human feelings predominate and are stark and one might say conflicted--the conflict arising between humankind's baser instincts and the more civilized ones of society. What he does here is turn the stalker into the saint, in a sense, and the object of his love into something unworthy of that love.
The question might arise: is it realistic to believe that a woman would leave her windows open and her lights on for all to see inside while she goes about her private life? No, it isn't. But we have to accept this device. After that the film is fully realistic to the point of even being mundane in its depiction of middle class city life. The characters are ordinary and even a little boring except for Tomek's supreme obsession. It is this "jewel" in the heart of the Polish city that lifts his life and her life above the ordinary. Even though we know that she is too old and too world-weary for him and that he is too hopelessly young and inexperienced for her for lasting love to ever bloom between them, we cannot help but think how wonderful it would be if we could all feel as he does, or be the object of such love.
Usually when this theme is worked out it is the obsessed who suffer greatly, it is the obsessed who are to be pitied--and we do to some extent feel something close to that for Tomek. But here it is Magda who we end up pitying the more because of her inability to love. Compared to Tomek she is a deprived creature who will never find true happiness--unless she learns this lesson she has gotten from this young man whose passion for her was unlike anything she had ever experienced before.
And this is Kieslowski's point: it is not only better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. It is only through love that we can truly identify with another human being. We see this in the scene where Madga is looking through Tomek's telescope into her apartment window and recalling what he had seen one day, the day that she had come home and spilled the milk and sat at the table crying over that spilled milk (very typical of Kieslowski to use such an obvious, but telling and entirely apt cliché) after a breakup with one of her boyfriends. In memory she sees Tomek looking at her crying and running her finger through the spilled milk, and she realizes the depth of his commiseration with her and his love for her, and in her mind's eye she sees him beside her (as he truly was psychologically) with his hand on her shoulder and love in his heart.
We might think that at some other time she will look back on a relationship she had had in her life and realize that the failure was due to a lack of love on her part. Indeed she more or less reveals that to us when she tells Tomek's "Godmother" that no, she is not the right person for Tomek. We know that she is too cynical and would only use him temporarily for gratification, and that would be all.
But I was left with the sense that Magda would indeed learn from her experience and would be transformed. There is this sense of hope and the possibility of emotional and spiritual growth that is often seen in the films of Krzysztof Kieslowski.
(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)
I was not sure what to expect from this film as it is the only the second Polish film of Kieslowski's I have seen. Now it is one of my favorite foreign films and probably my second favorite Kieslowski film, under Red. I was so glued to the television while watching this because I was truly interested in the characters. I saw the 85 minute version and I can say it went very fast because I was completely wrapped up in the story. The passion that these two characters showed is something rarely seen in film. The fact that it was such a simple film with simple characters is quite important as well because it added to the feel of the film. I recommend anyone who can find this film see it.
A short film about love is truly the work of a master,although it was released as part of The Dekalog (all excellent) it stands out above the rest for it's detailed characterization.the film is so well cast,you almost forget your watching a film with actors,but feel your witnessing a human tragedy unfold before you eyes,the performances are so convincing and the setting so real its like watching a documentary on the human condition,and the message is a clear one,not all love has an happy ending,indeed there is a very painful side to feeling love and never as the cinema explored it so poignantly as Krzysztof Kieslowski
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is first and foremost about film, film making, and film viewing.
Film viewing involves a sort of film making as you take the images and
cobble them together, which is why different people can see different
films from the same images given.
The boy is both the director and the viewer as he cobbles together the images from his telescope. The woman is both the film and the director, as she IS the image and decides what images to show him.
They meet and the film he created is not the film she is. Then at the end, film itself becomes the film maker/viewer. She creates the film and the boy has also become the film.
This is some great stuff here...film viewer as film maker...film creating film...life as film...film as life.
It is about love too. Romantic love is but a movie we create using films as source (it used to be literature).
A gripping and intriguing story about loving someone from afar. This is
one of those films that I randomly pick up from whatever thread I come
across, and now, having seen it, I am really surprised that it's mostly
unknown. From the late Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski---I know,
good luck on pronouncing his name, this is the extended version of the
sixth episode of The Decalogue. Tomek is nineteen years old, a single
guy who works in a post office. Every night, he spies on Magda, a
middle-aged woman who lives in the building across. He falls in love
with her and decides to profess his love one day after seeing her cry
the previous night. At first, Magda doesn't take him seriously and she
eventually hurts him. What follows after is both tragic and moving.
This film is really spell-binding, from the powerful human emotions it
displays to its sincere silent moments. It is a true gem of cinema, a
special story waiting to be told. The characters are very real and the
emotions they convey very honest. The obsession and the desperation
felt by the protagonists are simply too painful to watch. This film is
not readily available to some but it is worth every second of
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