Thursday, June 30, 2005
Old new films
It's amazing how quickly films move away to be "history" and not "film". I have just seen, after a few years, Krzysztof Kieślowski's Short Film About Killing (1988, Polish title: Krótki film o zabijaniu). And I hesitated before writing about it. I mean - how new can a 1988 film be? Then I realized a huge chunk of what I put here could be considered old (goes as far as the beginning of the 20th century!), though to me it is quite contemporary (or participates in contemporary culture).
But feature films participate in the showbiz culture, which has an awful influence on their longevity. Of course, the cinema elites (italics are meant to suggest irony) go back to old films. But why shouldn't old films participate in the artistic culture the same way paintings and music pieces do?
Kieślowski's film is haunting. It is exactly what it announces: a film about killing. About how humans kill other humans. It follows the case of a murder, followed by the (capital) punishment. Story-wise we don't get much more: a few secondary characters, a few coincidences, apparently insignificant situations. What else do you need? Killing is not about reasons, is it? Not about the rational ones that "explain", as in a Agatha Christie novel. It is about something strange that happens, that convinces the killer that through annihilation he creates. But this, of course, is my reading. Kieślowski does not allow himself to go that far: he merely exposes, in such a way that upon leaving the cinema huge arguments arise about what is evil and what isn't, about innocence and cruelty, about all these things we might have once thought were important issues to deal with, in art, in life.
All this is filmed in yellowish tones, with a horrible-quality film tape, which intensifies the desperately grey tones of Warsaw in the 80's. Having lived there as a child during this period, I can only confirm this. Even the bad quality of the tape seems to belong to that era, like a proof that this really existed.
It is a heavy film. Extremely European, far from the Hollywood speed or dynamics. At times, its weight is simply unbearable. There are moments which seem incredibly naive, clearly "written out" and not really integrated with the flow of the film. But Kieślowski was a thinker: he thought out through his films. And he thought well. Maybe that's why he ends up convincing - he was trustworthy, not through the way he answered, but through the way he asked questions.