Monday, June 8, 2020

A Short Film About Love

Krzysztof Kieslowski’s A Short Film About Love (1988) is remarkable in that it’s the reverse of what it seems to be. It derives by the way from Dekalog Six, an episode of his famed television series. The beginning moments are a series of stop action shots and silhouettes. You see a young postal worker, Tomek (Olaf Lubaszenko) breaking into a storage unit to find a telescope, juxtaposed to images of the promiscuous young woman painter Magda (Grazyna Szapolowska) he spies upon. These early scenes immediately conjure Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954)Antonioni’s Blowup (1966) and Coppola’s The Conversation (1974). Parenthetically all of these movies share the fact that they’re filled with now antiquated electronic paraphernalia, in the case of A Short Film About Love, old television monitors, alarm clocks, water heaters, which retrospectively add a peculiarity and charm as you see them from the vantage point of present day technology. But Kieslowski’s brilliance is to turn the palette of voyeurism on its head since the film is less about a paraphilia than the form of human connection denoted by the film’s disarming title. You might say it's voyeurism in reverse, but that wouldn't do the film justice since it's less about voyeurism or on the other end of the spectrum, exhibitionism, than introspection. Kieslowski’s vision is at once classically romantic in that it’s based on the imaginative power of what doesn’t exist (enhanced with his initial use of shadows and bifurcated spaces) and at the same time something even more unique.The one attempt at true consummation in the movie is an abysmal failure, but you realize that Tomek’s ploys—heavy breathing calls, the sending notices of false money orders (to lure Magda to his "window" at the post office), the false reporting of gas leaks in Magda's apartment, and intercepting mail—all constitute a kind of stage business. By redefining love as a ritualistic performance, the director expands his vocabulary of emotion beyond the usual symbols of unification and transcendence. Love as it’s presented in this strikingly touching film turns out to be closer to the experience of everyday reality with its signs and symbols and failed attempts at connection. In one of the film's culminating scenes Magda experiences what it's like to love and be loved by seeing herself through Tomek's telescope. What results is a universe that’s as intimate as it is mundane. There are insinuations of Christ imagery in the stigmata resulting from Tomek's attempts at self-mutilation. However, what seems like perversion in the end has the choreography, the stopping and starting and grey areas that define less the experience of passion than the Heideggerian dasein, "being there."

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.