A Short Film About Killing; A Short Film About Love

Despite their titles, these films by the Polish director Krzysztof Kieślowki are not short: each is an extended version of one of the chapters of his Decalogue, a series of hour-long films made in the late-’80s that explores and interprets the ten commandments. The fifth and sixth commandments—namely “Thou shalt not kill,” and “Thou shalt not commit adultery”—are examined in these two parts, which have been released on DVD for the first time in their feature-length incarnations. The titles are (perhaps deliberately) vague about their subject matter: Killing deals not so much with the act of murder as it ruminates on corporal punishment and the death penalty through the trial and sentencing of a young man who attacked a taxi driver, and the lawyer who is tasked with his case. (As such, it’s not a particularly easy film to watch—but if you can stomach a bus full of Ron Weasleys being killed in M.I.A.’s latest video, you should be able to handle this.)

Love, on the other hand, is more about voyeurism, loneliness and unrequited emotions, and follows a lonely young man who spies on his promiscuous neighbour. Each film carries Kieślowski’s trademarks: cinematography at once bleak and oddly, hyperactively colourful; Zbigniew Preisner’s incredibly romantic scores—some of the best music ever composed for the screen—and assured, steady direction that allows each actor to give a truly great performance. These two films in particular are constantly referred to by other filmmakers—among them Wong Kar-wai and James Gray—and their formal attributes put the films among the best of the period. Both would serve as excellent introductions to the director’s work, and to modern European art-house cinema in general.

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