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A Short Film About Killing (1988)

Krótki film o zabijaniu (original title)
Not Rated | | Crime, Drama | 11 August 1995 (USA)
A soon-to-be lawyer crosses his path with a taxi driver and a young sinister man.
9 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Miroslaw Baka ... Jacek
Krzysztof Globisz ... Piotr
Jan Tesarz ... Taksówkarz
Zbigniew Zapasiewicz ... Przewodniczacy Komisji
Barbara Dziekan ... Bileterka
Aleksander Bednarz ... Kat
Jerzy Zass Jerzy Zass ... Naczelnik
Zdzislaw Tobiasz Zdzislaw Tobiasz ... Sedzia
Artur Barcis ... Mlody medczyzna
Krystyna Janda ... Dorota
Olgierd Lukaszewicz ... Andrzej
Leonard Andrzejewski ... Kumpel pijanego na postoju taksówek (as L. Andrzejewski)
Wieslaw Bednarz Wieslaw Bednarz ... (as W. Bednarz)
Zbigniew Borek Zbigniew Borek ... (as Z. Borek)
Wladyslaw Byrdy Wladyslaw Byrdy ... (as W. Byrdy)


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 | Plot Synopsis


Crime | Drama


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


In the Sight and Sound directors poll of 2012 acclaimed Dutch filmmaker Cyrus Frisch voted for A Short Film About Killing, commenting that in Poland, this film was instrumental in the abolition of the death penalty. 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 »


Featured in Pirated Copy (2004) See more »


Opowiem ci o lwie (I will tell you about a lion)
Lyrics by Wanda Chotomska and music by Wlodzimierz Korcz
See more »

User Reviews

Morality of Murder {Krzysztof Kieslowski}
8 July 2011 | by Stanley-BeckerSee all my reviews

Although this movie concerns itself with one of the paramount taboos, its evocative intensity is kept quite impassive. Perhaps the intention is to allow the viewer the freedom of choice: to either accept consciously, the facts of life, with all its "red in tooth and claw" aspects, {a form of realism}, or to resist the blind, impulsive irrationality of sado- masochistic gratification with all its pathological undertones.

Kieslowski divides his tale into three main parts - the first part introduces the three main characters - the candidate advocate who is being examined by the Board for his Bar entrance - we are introduced to a man of a sensitive nature, thoughtful and unconvinced after four years of practice that punishment is a deterrent {although he concedes that it might be a deterrent ,or at least intimidatory to those for whom crime is not a natural calling}. He offers a reference from Genesis stating that the threat of punishment did not deter Cain from murdering Abel. The next character is a youth who walks aimlessly looking at cinema posters, amusing himself in rebellious and anti-social ways. The third character is a taxi driver who is seen cleaning and shining his car. Kieslowski has given him a rather disagreeable personality.

The second part of the movie has the three main characters slowly and inexorably moving towards each other so that the precise details of their intertwined destinies can be unfolded. The advocate is seen with his wife in the same coffee house as the punkish youth. The youth then randomly selects a taxi to drive him to a desolate country road where in a slowly enacted, drawn out scene, he garottes and bludgeons the taxi driver, who begs for mercy on behalf of his wife and children. The viewer is left in no doubt as to the horror of the act as the youth raises a large stone and smashes the victims head with it.

The movie then experiences a jump cut in editing as the capture and trial of the murderer are omitted and the thread of the story continues with the youth being found guilty. This causes the advocate to go through a soul searching period of whether his defence of the youth was competent. Kieslowski, finally allows the viewer biographical access to the life of the youth/murderer - this is the only part of the movie driven by emotional values as we learn of the tragedies in his life and his need to be reassured that at least in death he would be buried close to his father and sister whom he both obviously loved. This is a brilliant preparatory moment as the viewer is made conscious of this up -to-now abstract figure, who up to this point had elicited no sympathy at all. Now the viewer is jolted into consciousness as the humanity of the murderer transforms him back into a human being.

The third part of the movie - the final curtain, is the carrying out of the death penalty.Unlike Hollywood, where as in "Dead Man Walking", Sean Penn is shown walking to his doom still embracing his pride - Kieslowski depicts the taking of life, first, with the murder of the taxi driver in a long protracted scene, and then with the Judicial murder, a heart wrenching display of fear and struggle leaving the viewer feeling personally assaulted and gut-wrenched {at least that's how I felt}.

Only a master of the practice of art could have pulled this off. When one thinks of what to reference this movie to, other movies don't come to mind. Rather one has to look at literature {as I'm sure Kieslowski did}. Dostoevsky's "Crime and Punishment" and Musil's "The Man Without Qualities" spring to mind. I take the fact that this movie is to be compared with major works of literary art to be high praise indeed

If you want more than pulp movies then this philosophical discourse on the nature of life and death will leave you somehow enhanced and certainly more aware. Highly recommended.

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Release Date:

11 August 1995 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A Short Film About Killing See more »

Filming Locations:

Poland See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Zespol Filmowy "Tor" See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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