A Short Film About Love is a feature version of Krzysztof Kieślowski’s The Decalogue – VI from 1988. The film talks about an innocent boy who falls in love with an older, experienced woman who treats love as a noncommittal game.
The starting point of the plot is the Seventh Commandment (the Third Commandment is omitted in the series, whereas the Tenth is split into two films): ‘Thou shall not commit adultery’. The famous television cycle was meant by its creators to explore the functioning of Old Testament’s ethical and existential impact in the contemporary world. In terms of film’s structure the co-writer of the script Krzysztof Piesiewicz emphasizes the influence of Hitchock and Bergman. A Short Film About Love is a combination of Rear Window and a subtle psychological drama.
All we know of nineteen-year old Tomek (Olaf Lubaszenko) is that he's very sensitive and in love. Raised in an orphanage, he rents a room from his best friend’s mother (Stefania Iwińska), works at a post office and studies foreign languages in his free time. However, in his daily routine for quite some time only one thing really matters: punctually at 8:30 PM his thirty-something female neighbour Magda (Grażyna Szapołowska) comes back home. Tomek’s friend and a previous occupant of the room told Tomek about the voluptuous and reckless neighbour who tends reveal herself in front of her wide-open windows. At first, Tomek uses binoculars to observe Magda but he shortly finds out that something more precise is needed and he steals a telescope. The erotic fascination transforms quickly into love. It seems no longer acceptable for Tomek to go on as a voyeur and thus he kicks off efforts to get closer to Magda. The question we all as viewers face is in what way she, as a grown-up woman who has already lost illusions of love after her numerous past relations, will react to the innocent love of the nineteen year-old boy.
In modern terms the protagonist of A Short Film About Love would be called a stalker. Tomek incessantly observes Magda, harasses her with dead calls, intercepts her mails and once even sends for an emergency gas servicing to intervene in her apartment in order to stop her bedroom romps with another man. His desperate doings are motivated by his still-growing feelings towards his female neighbour. By observing Magda from a safe distance, Tomek idealizes her and projects on her his own fantasies of love, creating in this manner a fictional figure. However, A Short Film About Love is not another story about voyeurism with the protagonist seeing the outside world as a series of visual representations and enjoying the position of isolated observer. Tomek does not have a sadistic lust for authority but love and sensitivity. His final encounter with idealized love has to end up with a painful disappointment. A short confrontation with the sensitive and naïve boy is also liberating for Magda, who's as cynical as she is lost, whereas the observing-observed roles are finally inverted. It is worth mentioning that the climax of A Short Film About Love is different than the one in The Decalogue – VI and has a more optimistic envoy than the television version. Kieślowski did not create a banal paean to love but by complicating relations between the protagonists he authorized different interpretations.
The director of Camera Buff
provided for authentic social background: the ambiance in Poland during the communist regime is well recreated which is clearly visible in a funny episode at the post managed by an abrupt boss. A Short Film About Love
is less connected with ‘here and now’ than the other films of the cycle – the action could easily be held in a contemporary housing estate. Kieślowski focuses on psychological layer in his narration and is strongly helped in achieving this aim by the cast: Olaf Lubaszenko and Grażyna Szapołowska, who developed here one of the most interesting female characters in Polish cinema. Another of the film's strong points is its cinematography: Witold Adamek juxtaposed handily the melancholic blue – which points at the loneliness of the protagonists – with red – the colour of love but also blood. The universality of the subject and a beautiful visual setting of the film brought a Golden Lion in Gdynia (jointly with A Short Film About Killing
) and a recognition abroad. The great Michelangelo Antonioni admitted his true fascination with the film and claimed that he watched the cinematic version of The Decalogue
as many times as twelve.
A Short Film About Love, Poland 1988. Dir.: Krzysztof Kieślowski. Script: Krzysztof Piesiewicz, Krzysztof Kieślowski. Cinematography: Witold Adamek. Music: Zbigniew Preisner. Scenography: Halina Dobrowolska. Cast: Olaf Lubaszenko (Tomek), Grażyna Szapołowska (Magda), Stefania Iwińska (Tomek’s housekeeper), Artur Barciś (man with a suitcase) and others.
Author: Robert Birkholc, translated by Antoni Wiśniewski, April 2016