Acclaimed Polish filmmaker Krysztof Kieslowski’s A Short Film About Love was released the same year as A Short Film About Killing which I briefly mentioned in the introductory post summarizing 1988. For some reason, despite Killing‘s hard-hitting, unflinching content, the relatively lightweight Love is the film that has gained greater notoriety and acclaim over the years. I’ll be very honest that as I watched Love, I felt very little of anything, though at one point I was able to identify boredom. The film simply has not aged well, especially thematically. And I’m not even talking about the sexual politics or that we are supposed to find a peeping tom endearing, just because he’s honest about it. It’s the fact that the film simply says nothing about love that is applicable to the real world. The actions of these characters are too unrealistic to take seriously, but more than that, there is no cleverness to the script – it’s both too obvious in it’s subtlety and too subtle in it’s messaging.
On the positive side, this is a film that relies on the facial expressions and physicality of the acting, instead of on dialogue. Kieslowski is very good at using the pure language of cinema to tell a story. The economic running time (about 82 minutes) is a testament to how much his characters tell us in a short period of time, without actually saying anything. The acting is pitch perfect for what the film is trying to accomplish.
But what matters in the end is the effect a film has on the audience, and all its technical achievements cannot overcome the empty feeling I felt at the end of the film. I recognize how unique it is to title a film A Short Film About Love and include peeping toms, adultery, premature ejaculation, and attempted suicide in it. What I don’t see is the end justifying the means. I learned nothing new about love. C+
The film is hailed by many as Kieslowski’s best, which is high praise indeed given the acclaim he received for the Three Colors trilogy released in the early 1990s. Kieslowski, unfortunately passed away in 1996 at the young age of 54. While he claimed retirement after the colors trilogy ended, it is still a significant loss. He had a unique perspective on everyday human life, both on an individual level and within greater society.
As far as the actors in A Short Film About Love are concerned, most of them have gone on to have great careers in the Polish film industry. Kieslowski had a knack of finding bright talent and a lot of actors do owe their careers to getting starring roles in his films.
Kieslowski’s influence on modern cinema is more easily seen in independent fare. A film like Blue Valentine, for example, would probably not have been made had Kieslowski not given the template for this type of modern interpersonal tragedy back in the late 80’s to early 90’s.
Next time I will be watching Heathers starring Winona Ryder, which is available to stream on Netflix! See you then.
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