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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » A Short Film About Killing
A Short Film About Killing
Kino // Unrated // May 11, 2004
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted May 10, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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The Movie:

Three different men have three very different places in the same city, Warsaw, Poland. Waldemar is a middle-aged cab driver. The film introduces us to him as he declines a fare (he's not quite ready for one at the time) and here's where we see the one moment in the film that could have changed his life. Instead of driving the nice young couple that wants a ride, he waits. Jacek is a young man who we find wandering the streets after finding that the movie theater he was planning to go to was closed. He seems nonchalant about what he sees as he walks the street. Piotr is a recent graduate from law school full of ideals and morals and faith in the system. When, in a shocking and brutal moment of random violence Jacek kills Waldemar, Piotr is assigned to act as his defense when it comes to trial.

three strangers unknowingly share a parallel destiny. In the shadows of a hellish housing project, a misanthropic cabby lavishes scorn on everyone and everything he sees. On a downtown sidewalk, a young drifter searches for himself in a shop window reflection while hiding his face from the police. Inside a privileged academic cloister, a would-be attorney defends his optimism in an oral bar exam. Through an appalling act of violence, cabby, drifter and lawyer are united in a shocking spectacle of wasted life that defies morality, upends empathy and makes martyrs of monsters.

A Short Film About Killing is also known as Thou Shalt Not Kill and was one of two chapters from Kieslowski's Dekalog (a series of ten one hour films for Polish TV – each one based on one of the Ten Commandments) that was fleshed out to feature length (the other being A Short Film About Love. It's an extremely potent and powerful film that presents violence and death in an unflinching and non-romanticized way. Death in this film is as it should be – ugly and cold and scary.

The film makes an interesting statement about the death penalty and, with its opening and closing scenes, seems to be pointing out how futile combating crime with what is essentially a state sanctioned act of the same magnitude can be. Whether or not you agree with the political slant that the film has is essentially irrelevant though, as the story is simply tense and engrossing from start to finish, despite its deliberate pacing.

The closest point of comparison I could come up with while watching it was Gasper Noe's Irreversible. Both films highlight the fragility of life and how things can so easily spiral out of control and go horribly wrong in such a small amount of time. Where Irreversible hits you over the head with two scenes of abhorrent and shocking violence, A Short Film About Killing holds your head in place and makes you pay attention in a slightly less exploitative but equally effective way.

The DVD

Video:

Just like their release of A Short Film About Love Kino have done a very nice job on their anamorphic widescreen transfer. Colors are slightly softer here than on the other film but it's minor in comparison to just how good it all looks. The film's prolific use of strange lighting really comes through in high detail and there is only a slight hint of print damage here and there.

Sound:

A Short Film About Killing is presented in its original Polish mono mix with removable and typo free English subtitles. Dialogue is clean and clear without any noticeable hiss or distortion present. There are a few effects in the film but they're subtle and not over the top at all so the mono mix sounds just fine for what it's needed to do here.

Extras:

Once again, there are some interesting supplements rounding out this package. First up is an Interview With Slawomir Idziak, Kieslowski's cinematographer on this film. It's an interesting piece (in Polish with English subtitles) in which he explains his reasoning for some of the bizarre colors and lighting techniques used throughout the film. There's also an Interview With Kieslowki Collaborator Annette Insdorf - this runs about five minutes and lends some insight into how it made it from a chapter of Kieslowski's Dekalog and evolved into a feature on its own. An Interview With Filmmaker Agnieszka Holland who co-wrote Trois Couleurs: Bleu with Kieslowski as well as directed many of her own films, lends a nice perspective on what made Kieslowski's films so interesting. An Examination Of The Film by Writer Antonin Liehm clocks in at about five minutes and is a nice critical take on the movie.

Once again, Kino has supplied another of Kieslowski's short films. This time out, it's A Night Porter's Point Of View (Z Punktu Widzenia Nocnego Portiera ), which is a seventeen minute mockumentary full of some odd humor that is worth checking out. It doesn't look as nice as the feature as far as visual quality is concerned, but it's also ten years older.

Rounding out the supplements are an original theatrical trailer, a Kieslowski filmography, and a Kieslowski Trailer Gallery - just like on the A Short Film About Love DVD .

Final Thoughts:

A Short Film About Killing is a very powerful and horrifying film (although not a horror movie per se) that deserves to find a wider audience. It's gripping, depressing, and totally engrossing. Kino has done an excellent job on their DVD release and A Short Film About Killing comes highly recommended.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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