39 user 40 critic

A Short Film About Killing (1988)

Krótki film o zabijaniu (original title)
Not Rated | | Crime, Drama | 26 October 1988 (France)
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, ... See full summary »

On Disc

at Amazon

8 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »


Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  

An innocent virgin spies on his frontal neighbor and falls in love with her, thus starts using tricks on her which he hopes will lead to them meeting.

Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski
Stars: Grazyna Szapolowska, Olaf Lubaszenko, Stefania Iwinska
Blind Chance (1987)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

Witek runs after a train. Three variations follow on how such a seemingly banal incident could influence the rest of Witek's life.

Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski
Stars: Boguslaw Linda, Tadeusz Lomnicki, Zbigniew Zapasiewicz
Camera Buff (1979)
Comedy | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

Filip buys an eight-millimetre movie camera when his first child is born. Because it's the first camera in town, he's named official photographer by the local Party boss. His horizons widen... See full summary »

Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski
Stars: Jerzy Stuhr, Malgorzata Zabkowska, Ewa Pokas
Drama | Fantasy | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

Two parallel stories about two identical women; one living in Poland, the other in France. They don't know each other, but their lives are nevertheless profoundly connected.

Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski
Stars: Irène Jacob, Wladyslaw Kowalski, Halina Gryglaszewska
Dekalog (1989–1990)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 9.1/10 X  

Ten television drama films, each one based on one of the Ten Commandments.

Stars: Artur Barcis, Olgierd Lukaszewicz, Olaf Lubaszenko
No End (1985)
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

It's 1982: Poland is under martial law, and Solidarity is banned. Ulla, a translator working on Orwell, suddenly loses her husband, Antek, an attorney. She is possessed by her grief, and ... See full summary »

Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski
Stars: Grazyna Szapolowska, Maria Pakulnis, Aleksander Bardini
Comedy | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

Second of a trilogy of films dealing with contemporary French society shows a Polish immigrant who wants to get even with his former wife.

Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski
Stars: Zbigniew Zamachowski, Julie Delpy, Janusz Gajos
Drama | Mystery | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

Final entry in a trilogy of films dealing with contemporary French society concerns a model who discovers her neighbour is keen on invading people's privacy.

Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski
Stars: Irène Jacob, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Frédérique Feder
Drama | Music | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

A woman struggles to find a way to live her life after the death of her husband and child.

Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski
Stars: Juliette Binoche, Zbigniew Zamachowski, Julie Delpy
The Mirror (1975)
Biography | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

A dying man in his forties remembers his past. His childhood, his mother, the war, personal moments and things that tell of the recent history of all the Russian nation.

Director: Andrei Tarkovsky
Stars: Margarita Terekhova, Filipp Yankovskiy, Ignat Daniltsev
Talking Heads (1980)
Documentary | Short
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

People of different age, profession and social status answer two simple questions: who they are and what they want from life.

Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski
A Man Escaped (1956)
Drama | Thriller | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

Captured French Resistance fighter Lieutenant Fontaine awaits a certain death sentence for espionage in a stark Nazi prison. Facing malnourishment and paralyzing fear, he must engineer an ... See full summary »

Director: Robert Bresson
Stars: François Leterrier, Charles Le Clainche, Maurice Beerblock


Credited cast:
adwokat Piotr Balicki
Jan Tesarz ...
taksówkarz Waldemar Rekowski
Przewodniczacy Komisji
Barbara Dziekan ...
Jerzy Zass ...
Zdzislaw Tobiasz ...
Mlody medczyzna
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Leonard Andrzejewski ...
Kumpel pijanego na postoju taksówek (as L. Andrzejewski)
Wieslaw Bednarz ...
(as W. Bednarz)
Zbigniew Borek ...
(as Z. Borek)
Ryszard W. Borsucki ...
(as R. W. Borsucki)


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. Written by Michael Brooke <michael@everyman.demon.co.uk>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Crime | Drama


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

26 October 1988 (France)  »

Also Known As:

No matarás  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Kieslowski's graphic depiction of the effects of violence so shook up the Polish authorities that they declared a five year moratorium on capital punishment. See more »


Jacek Lazar: I didn't listen in court, not until you called to me. They were all... all against me.
Piotr Balicki: Against what you did.
Jacek Lazar: Same thing...
See more »


Referenced in The Parole Officer (2001) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

Thou Shalt Not Kill, the "extended" director's cut...
15 November 2015 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I must give the late director Krystof Kieslowski his due: when A Short Film About Killing ended, I had to think about it for at least a couple of hours before sitting down to put something to print (and I know I'll think about it some more tomorrow). For those who may not know, this is actually a longer 'director's cut' of a segment from the director's towering work, The Decalogue, a ten-part film which has an episode about each of the ten commandments (this made up the segment "Thou Shalt Not Kill"). I had originally seen that film-series years ago, and a flood of images and thoughts came back to me; at the time, the 60-minute version of this story, about a young man who wanders aimlessly through a town, has a coffee, chases pigeons, then gets into a taxi cab and leads him to a rural area and kills him, then later being executed after being caught, was great and full of passion in its argument for showing not that killing is right in anyway but that the death penalty is fundamentally corrupted when it uses the same sort of barbaric tactics that Jacek used in his fight.

But now seeing this full film, and thinking about it for a while, I know what my issue is: this is in essence a short story, and if you distill the essence of the story down to what happens and its characters, it would read much more like a short piece (hence the title I suppose), but that is why it worked so well in the midst of all the other 'Thou Shalt Not' set-ups in the Dekalog. Here, we just have the narrative before us, and there's a piece of the story that feels missing, and it almost feels like it was changed from the re-edited film.

What is so strong and powerful about the movie is just how unflinching Kieslowski is about how Jacek and the cab driver and also the lawyer going for his exam to join the legal system go about what they're doing: one is aimless, one is simply enjoying washing his car, and the other has to explain himself to a committee. They're all men going about what they do, and the color palette makes this very much a dirty, horrifying kind of world; in my original review of the 'Kill' episode I wrote, 'Its like the world is all gray like Children of Men... The music like a horror film.' And more than that there are moments (at least from the DVD I watched) where a character will be sort of highlighted as they're riding a bike or walking through town with everything else around them sullied and lacking value. So that when the violence does happen - both killings, as one should say - they're particularly brutal as it comes as real shocks to the system.

I think my problem watching this story again is that there seemed to be a lack of that, yes, conventional but possibly necessary storytelling piece - seeing the character caught, how that happened, even if it's just one small moment or shot, or even seeing how the lawyer becomes involved - but it cuts directly from Jacek in the stolen car with his girlfriend at night to him being taken away in handcuffs being found guilty of the murder. It's hard to say on one hand that I don't want a typical Hollywood examination of violence (this is basically in a way like a Law & Order episode but with all of the 'investigation' and 'trial' processes thrown out the window), and on the other bemoan that there's nothing of that in the film. To be sure, Kieslowski knows we've all seen movies and that we know Jacek will be caught, but just a hint in this case would add something, even just some context (one supposes Piotr will be Jacek's lawyer seeing as he's now been marked to practice law in the first part, but why does he take the case, does he have to, is there some kind of impending moral imperative for him - we only get the slightest hint early on of him being opposed to death penalty).

And yet I still have to see what's in front of me and if it's affecting, and it still is; in all its stripped down, unvarnished 1980's Polish presentation, it's a horrifying drama, and mostly about what goes into killing someone, whether it's Jacek and how long it actually takes to kill the driver (it's almost as if Kieslowski takes things further than Hitchcock did in his later years with Torn Curtain), and then with the executioners readying the noose. But the heart of the movie is a scene between Jacek and Piotr - their last, as it turns out - where the condemned says some things about his family and where he wants to be buried, and it's hard not to be moved. Some of this may be slightly manipulative by the director - the music can't help but come in with the singer on the aria, a common use in his films

  • but the acting is so natural and heartbreaking that it helps to drive

the message home.

While I would recommend the slightly shorter cut of this story in The Decalogue, if you're seeing this version for the first time it's still an affecting piece of filmmaking by a master of his craft, caring always about the emotional context and challenging viewers on what they think about a subject, even if at the expense of traditional storytelling.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Anti-Capital Punishment antwalsh
Kieslowki -one of the best all time directors and also very underrated Scipio28
'Since Cain, no punishment has proved to be an adequate remedy.' dan_saunders151
Is It Significantly Different from Hour Version? webuiltthiscityonrockand
about the taxi driver etc. petermichaelwilson
the Nursery rhyme sherlockchanhk
Discuss A Short Film About Killing (1988) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: