Thursday, May 29, 2014

A Short Film about Killing (orig. Krótki film o zabijaniu) [1987]

MPAA (UR would be R)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing listing* article about film

Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema: [MSP Website] []

A Short Film about Killing (orig. Krótki film o zabijaniu) [1987] [IMDb] []* (directed and cowritten by Krzysztof Kieślowski [IMDb] []*[en.wikip] [pl.wikip]* along with Krzysztof Piesiewicz [IMDb] []*[en.wikip] [pl.wikip]*) is a critically acclaimed / award winning film that played recently at the Gene Siskel Film Center here in Chicago as part of the Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema film series touring currently in various parts of the U.S. 

A small yet very well-acted / crafted film made late in the Communist Era (Mikhail Gorbachev was already heading the Soviet Union and Polish Solidarity Union leader Lech Walesa was already released from prison / active once more in opposing the Communist regime), the film offers IMHO an excellent example of the kind of film, even "issue oriented film," that's possible even under otherwise restrictive / oppressive circumstances.  (Another example such small but certainly poignant even powerful film-making would be The Bright Day (orig. Rooz-e Roshan) [2013] an excellent recent Iranian film that covers much of the same ground as this film and which also played a number of months back at the Gene Siskel Film Center as part of its annual survey of contemporary Iranian Cinema).

The film here is very simple.  It has two central (both young) protagonists: Piotr Balicki (played by Krzysztof Globisz [IMDb] []*) a young lawyer who recently passed his (oral...) examination to Poland's (still Communist era) Bar, and Jacek Lazar (played by Mirosław Baka [IMDb] []*) an angry and confused barely 20-something youth.  Yes, "Lazar" would be Polish for Lazarus, invoking not so much Jesus' friend who Jesus raised from the dead (John 11) but "the poor man Lazarus" of Luke's parable (Lk 16:19-31).

Well one day angry and confused Jacek strangles and then bludgeons to death a random taxi driver (played by Jan Tesarz [IMDb] []*) to take his car in hopes of impressing a girl his age (played by Barbara Dziekan [IMDb] []*).  Most Cinemaphiles here would probably immediately appreciate why Martin Scorsese, whose breakthrough and similarly gut-wrenching film was Taxi Driver [1976] about a similarly aliened young man (played by a still very young Robert De Niro) trying to impress a young woman (played by a still very young Jodi Foster), would be impressed by this film that was almost certainly inspired at least in part by his.

So ... newbie lawyer Piotr is asked to defend Jacek  But Justice is generally quite swift in authoritarian regimes.  So there really wasn't much of a defense to be made: Sitting in the back seat of the taxi-driver's taxi, Jacek did direct the taxi-driver to take him out to a rather isolated area at the outskirts of Warsaw.  He did then try to strangle the taxi-driver with a clothesline and when that didn't work, he went to the trunk, got out the tire-iron, and bashed the taxi-driver with it.  Finally, he dragged the taxi-driver (tied up now with the above mentioned clothesline) to the (presumably) Vistula River and dumped him, still semi-conscious, into the River, where he presumably drowned.  Jacek _did_ commit a gruesome crime.  Found self-evidently guilty ... he was meted-out the Death Sentence for it.

But ... somehow a part of the Story appeared to not be told (or certainly the State / System was not interested in hearing) ... WHY would Jacek do such a terrible thing?

In the utter absence of telling / hearing of the story, the audience then is treated to a similarly gruesome portayal of Jacek's execution (by hanging).  Piotr does come to see Jacek prior to his execution.  Jacek does give Piotr (and thus the audience) a few tantalizing glimpses into his own story (that the Court had been utterly uninterested in) BUT THAT'S CUT SHORT.  After a time, the warden orders the guards to come in, who bind Jacek and then drag him (screaming and crying ... he is barely 20 years old ...) to the noose where they hang him.  A bowl had set neatly below the noose to collect any excrement that Jacek might let loose before expiring ...  

So the State / Society did to Jacek almost exactly what Jacek did that random taxi-driver.  And one's left asking, what was the point of disposing of Jacek in this way?  Yes, he was a murderer, but somewhere in there he had also been a human being too.

Since the film was studiously _non-political_ -- Jacek was portrayed as just a random, confused, angry young man, who committed a terribly and tragically stupid crime for a terribly tragic reason (to try to impress a girl) -- there was no reason for the State to ban (or cause trouble in the making of) this film.

But at the end of the film, one's left honestly with one's jaw dropped open asking/saying: "Wow."

Powerful film.

This film is actually available FOR FREE (with the option of having English captions) on the Studio Filmowe TOR's Youtube Channel.

* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser. 

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