Saturday, February 13, 2010

A short note on Killing: A few notes on A Short Film About Killing

Minutes before his execution, a convict for a killing, in a frenzied confession before his lawyer, tells about his minor sister, he and his friend had run over under a tractor long ago. Minutes before the killing, the would-be convict gives a crumpled old b/w snap of the angelic girl to a photographer for blow-up, spits in his coffee cup in a cafe lest someone takes it as he has been doing with others' leftovers, even as he attempts wrapping the ‘killer rope’ around his wrist.

It’s, to be sure, not a film about murder, a premeditated act governed by motive and intention; it’s plain killing, an unalloyed, immediate and instinctive desire to kill someone, to transpose the inner matrix of despair and outrage onto a different platform, here the victim. The moment, the instinct, in which an undefined and absolutely abstract emotion becomes so unbearable that its culmination, its release results in a killing.

In an stunning shot of Ma saison préférée (My Favourite Season), a dejected but equally magnetic Catherine Deneuve, who was stalked by a lumpen youth for long, finally succumbs to his entreaties in a park, in a moment when she sees herself all lost and her smouldering soul finds an altogether different avenue to explode.

As he explores-exposes the sub-conscious of killing---- is killing an act or a concept, the movie repeatedly questions--- Kieslowski grapples with the cityscape, its underbelly and freaky characters, suggesting violence is inherently rooted in Gothic buildings and vastfields, reminding of spooky cellars of Edgar Allan Poe and carrying an arrestingly appealing and elliptical colour palette.
For, the distinct chromatic code, which at some frames goes all sooty, at others is drenched with mystical shades of yellow and green, elevates the movie to myriad stills of impressionistic paintings. Note the traces of Van Gough in the trail of open field the lens captures with varied angles after the killing. The camera, remarkably, maintains an intimate distance from characters, never encroaching or intruding into their space, yet without being indifferent to their guilt, gives them ample space to explode. Mark the camera, terse yet fluid, as it captures the final conversation of the convict with his lawyer.

In contrast stands the immediate shot after the killing --- a cyclist pedals past the fields and fades against a sepia sun. Without any intention to comment, the camera only situates various characters in their nativity.
Moving on a sword’s edge, the movie develops an unpredictable tension from the first shot itself when a cat is shown hanging from an altar-like structure and a few giggling-running children, whose faces the detached camera has no interest to trace. Treading through the anecdotic life of three strangers --- a jerky youth, a near-cynical taxi driver and an idealistic lawyer---Kieslowski weaves a multilayered narrative, in which desires are not founded upon reason and morals consistently challenged and confronted.

Juxtapose the convict with Poe's characters or Camus’s Outsider to derive fascinating comparisons. For, with Kieslowski too, the primary concern is human, locating the space of outrage and obsession in an indifferent universe. Despite gory details of killing and the seemingly subvert hero, who, many will say, obtains a pervert frisson from scaring pigeons, throwing stones at passing cars; the script assumes a sudden, unbelievable indeed, humanistic twist as he confesses his past. Aptly then, the only binding thread in the entire narrative becomes his sister.

By making the deceased taxi driver assert, ‘I don’t like cats, they can’t be trusted. Like people,’ Kieslowski confirms futile it could be to trust the artist. The movie that for most of the reels explores a non-premeditated killing by an unpredictable hero, possibly making one believe the director is advocating an extra-moral, supra-censoral authority, cocking a snook at the system; with its perfunctory details of execution and description of overzealous jail officers becomes a case against capital punishment, making it a worthy case study in law courses.
Made as a commentary on one of the Ten Commandments (Thou Shalt Not Kill), the movie, in effect, subverts theology. For, who was the victim, the taxi driver or the youth, Kieslowski doesn't even suggest, least gives an answer.

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