Reviews

Reviews

A Short Film About Love

A Short Film About Love

Krótki film o milosci

Krzysztof Kieslowski

Poland, 1988

Credits

Review by Rumsey Taylor

Posted on 11 July 2004

Source Kino Video DVD

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Krzysztof Kieslowski’s A Short Film About Love is structured simply, in a distant relationship that posits a young, inexperienced male, Tomek, with a noticeably older and provocative female, Magda, whom he spies on through a telescope. In this film, love has no fantastic connotation. For both characters it is a feeling of attachment and necessity, an emotion that is potentially harmful.

Tomek is principally expressionless, his attention and honesty conveyed in wide, unblinking eyes. In many instances he verifies his emotions with harm, furnishing scars to accompany what he is experiencing internally. He watches as Magda invites and seduces another male, and he removes his eye from his telescope. On a later visit from the same male, Tomek complicates the scenario with a prank phone call before the pair’s intercourse. They are interrupted, and Magda asks her visitor to leave. This is a success, one Tomek celebrates by punching a hole in his dresser.

Tomek’s obsession with Magda requires distance, as he is incapable of realistic confrontation. It is better if she remains a fantasy. His fascination with this woman, he says his love for her, is, however, not fantastical. At a later confrontation, she precariously asks him, “What do you want?” “I don’t know,” he says.

He explains his voyeurism to Magda (he is her postal clerk, and sends her forged money order notices so he can see her each morning). She is repulsed and curious; such intense attention, although dire, is flattering. That evening (Tomek sets an alarm to coincide with her nightly arrival home) she waves for his attention, moves her bed closer to the nearest window, and promptly reveals her boyfriend from an obscured doorway. The boyfriend realizes he is being watched, exits, and shouts below for his watcher to confront him. Tomek responsibly meets him and is hit in the face without defense. Magda’s lover leaves him with a black eye, a necessary endurance and indirect physical manifestation of love, or at least Tomek’s perception of love and what it requires. Magda looks at his face and realizes his commitment.

A Short Film About Love exists in two versions. In its first incarnation, as Decalogue VI, it ends bleakly. In its longer version, here, this tragic epilogue is excised, and, for characters who have impersonally harmed each other, ends with a final air of hope.

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