A short film about killing

Krzysztof Kieslowski

Poland, 1987 –1988


The first half of the film is a crude, almost quasi-documental record of a few hours from the lives of three inhabitants of Warsaw. The fates of the men are presented parallel but over time the separate threads begin to overlap and in the end the threads merge into a single story. Jacek (Mirosław Baka) is a 20-year-old boy who sees no sense in life. He wanders around the city thinking about killing someone. Marian (Jan Tesarz), a surly, middle-aged taxi driver, becomes his random victim. The boy asks to be driven to a secluded place after which he murders the driver in cold blood. After the killing is done Jacek flees from the scene of the crime in Marian’s car. On the same day Piotr Balicki (Krzysztof Globisz), a young and sensitive lawyer, gets his first job at a law firm. When after a certain time Jacek gets caught, it is Piotr who takes on the task of defending the killer.


As early as in the initial phase of work on the famous “Dekalog” (“The Decalogue”), Krzysztof Kieślowski planned to realize two episodes of the series as feature films. The director especially wanted to elaborate on the fifth part of the series, which concerns the commandment “Thou shalt not kill”. As a result, “Krótki film o zabijaniu” (“A Short Film About Killing”) was created – the most shocking work by Kieślowski, which made his name famous all around the world.



Krzysztof Kieslowski

Director of documents and feature films, screenwriter. Born in 1941 in Warsaw, died in 1996 in Warsaw.

In 1962 graduated from Liceum Technik Teatralnych (High School of Theatrical Techniques). In the Warsaw Teatr Współczesny (Contemporary Theater) he was a dresser to such celebrities of Polish stage as Tadeusz Lomnicki, Aleksander Bardini, or Zbigniew Zapasiewicz.

He graduated from Lodzka Szkola Filmowa (Lodz Film School) in 1968, and received his diploma in 1970.

He studied under the guidance of Kazimierz Karabasz and Jerzy Bossak. His first documentary exercises (Urząd [The Office], Z miasta Łodzi [From the City of Lodz]) were created under their care, and the feature exercise (Tramwaj [The Streetcar]) under the care of Wanda Jakubowska. He debuted in television with a documentary titled “Zdjęcie” (Photography). After graduating, up until 1983, he was affiliated with Warsaw Documentary and Feature Film Studios, where he produced most of his documentaries. Nevertheless, he was gradually walking away from the document in favor of feature works. In 1973 he produces his first television feature film “Przejście podziemne” (Underpass). From 1974 he was a member of Zespol TOR (TOR Team), managed by Stanislaw Rozewicz, and later by Krzysztof Zanussi.

In 1985 he entered into a script related collaboration with a known Warsaw lawyer Krzysztof Piesiewicz. They produced together the movie “Bez końca” (Endless), and then also all the consecutive works. International recognition came to Kieslowski with “Krótki film o zabijaniu” (A Short Film About Killing) and “Krótki film o miłości” (A Short Film About Love) (1988), which are both parts of the “Dekalog” (Decalogue) series. From 1991 (“Podwójne życie Weroniki” [The Double Life of Veronica]) Kieslowski produced his works in Polish-French coproduction; from 1993 with a recognized French film producer Marin Karmitz. After finishing his series “Trzy kolory” (Three Colours) (1993-94) he announced that he retires from producing movies. In his last months of life he prepared with Piesiewicz scripts to a movie triptych: “Raj” (Paradise), “Czyściec” (Purgatory), “Piekło” (Hell).

Between 1978 and 1981 Krzysztof Kieslowski was a vice-president of Polish Filmmakers Association. He also did educational work, among others at higher educational institutions in West Berlin, Helsinki, Lodz, Katowice, and in Switzerland.



  • 1969 – Z miasta Lodzi (From the City of Lodz) (working title “Lodzianie” [Residents of Lodz])
  • 1972 – “Robotnicy ’71: Nic o nas bez nas” (Workers ’71: Nothing About Us Without Us)
  • 1974 – “Pierwsza miłość” (First Love)
  • 1975 – “Życiorys” (Biography)
  • 1977 – “Z punktu widzenia nocnego portiera” (From the Point of View of a Night Porter)
  • 1980 – “Gadające głowy” (Talking Heads)

Feature films:

  • 1975 – “Personel” (Staff)
  • 1979 – “Amator” (An Amateur)
  • 1981 – “Przypadek” (An Accident) – premiere in 1987
  • 1985 – “Bez końca” (Endless)
  • 1988 – “Krótki film o zabijaniu” (A Short Film About Killing)
  • 1988 – “Krótki film o miłości” (A Short Film About Love)
  • 1988 – “Dekalog” (Decalogue)
  • 1991 “Podwójne życie Weroniki” (The Double Life of Veronica)
  • 1993 – “Trzy kolory: Niebieski” (Three Colours: Blue)
  • 1994 – “Trzy kolory: Biały” (Three Colours: White)
  • 1994 – “Trzy kolory: Czerwony” (Three Colours: Red)


Original Title: Krótki film o zabijaniu
Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski
Script: Krzysztof Kieslowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz
Music: Zbigniew Preisner
Art Direction: Slawomir Idziak
Duration: 84’
Release Date: 1987-1988
Country: Poland
Color: Color
Miroslaw Baka as Jacek Lazar
Krzysztof Globisz as Advocate Piotr Balicki
Jan Tesarz as Taxidriver Waldemar Rekowski
Zdzislaw Tobiasz as Judge

• 1988, Cannes Film Festival
Jury award: the best movie (Krzysztof Kieslowski)
Award of Międzynarodowa Federacja Krytyki Filmowej
(International Federation of Film Critics)
• 1988, Europejska Akademia Filmowa (European Film Academy) – Felix (until 1996)
The best European movie of the year (Krzysztof Kieslowski)
• 1988, Festiwal Polskich Filmów Fabularnych (Polish Feature Film Festival) in Gdynia (FPFF)
Złote Lwy (Golden Lions) – the best movie (Krzysztof Kieslowski)
• 2014, selected by Martin Scorsese to be presented in the United States and in Canada as a part of the Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema festival


“Krótki film o zabijaniu” (A Short Film About Killing)
Kieslowski himself wrote in the autobiography:
“I think that this movie actually is not about death penalty, but about killing in general. About killing which is evil – doesn’t matter why you kill, doesn’t matter who you kill or who does the killing.”
(Krzysztof Kieslowski, “O sobie” (About Me), p.126.


Krzysztof Kieslowski
“This is a story of a young man who kills a taxi driver and who is in turn killed by law. Actually nothing more can be said about the subject matter of this movie, because we do not know the reason why this man kills the taxi driver, or at least we don’t know precisely. Actually to tell you the truth there is no reason at all. And we know the legal reasons for which the society, also on my behalf, kills this man. But we have no idea about the true human reasons, and we will not learn them. (…)
I wanted to make this movie precisely because this is all happening on my behalf, because I am a member of this society, I am a citizen of this country, and if someone puts a noose around somebody else’s neck in this country and kicks the stool from underneath their feet, they do it on my behalf. And I don’t want that. I don’t want this to be happening. And I think that this movie actually is not about death penalty, but about killing in general”.



Sławomir Idziak
Kieslowski offered production of photography to episode five, and at the same time to “Krótki filmu
o zabijaniu” (A Short Film About Killing), to Slawomir Idziak. “I tried to let Kieslowski down easy. I suggested
experiments with picture, lighting, and filters. And he agreed to it. He told me: do what you want; if one of the episodes resembles green shit, nothing will happen. By the same he took off my back fear and responsibility” – the cameraman recalls.

Miroslaw Baka
Miroslaw Baka, a beginner, was entrusted with the important part of the murderer. “The day before shooting Baka was solemn, gloomy and terrified. (…) He was scared if he will be able to pull off the part. Then he tried hard to empathize with the protagonist – a murderer after all. He had to do things that at times aroused his objections” – recalls Dariusz Jablonski, second unit director for the series.

A short interview with Krzysztof Globisz
An invitation to play the young lawyer in “Krótki film o zabijaniu” („Dekalog, pięć”) (A Short Film About Killing [Decalogue, five]) for me was an exciting and stressful surprise. Krzysztof was trying to make me fully understand what this story is all about, what is its psychological and moral sense. The director wanted me to take a side in the dispute on death penalty. If I am now against it, that is first and foremost thanks to conversations with
Kieslowski then, in the 1980’s.
That was my first contact with the movie director. And Krzysztof was distinguished by the fact that actor was most important to him. When he said that this is actors’ time, this is time for rehearsal, no one dared to stir. During shooting, when we were recording the long prison sequences, my involvement as an actor verged on the private emotions of Krzysztof Globisz. Kieslowski stopped me from employing certain gestures and behaviors, because according to raw, economic style of narration I had to be “withdrawn”.
One of Kieslowski’s discoveries was a way of showing killing and fighting for life. It lasts more than a second. We observe the toil of the ones doing the killing and the desperate defense of the killed.

Material sent in by Piotr Paszko. An article taken from the “Film” (Movie) magazine (Krzysztof Demidowicz, December 2003)


Paul Coates (ed.), Lucid Dreams: The Films of Krzysztof Kieslowski, Wiltshire, Flicks Books, 1999

Annette Insdorf, Double Lives, Second Chances, New York, Hyperion, 1999

Danusia Stok (ed.), Kieslowski On Kieslowski, London, Faber and Faber Limited, 1993

Slavoj Zizek, The Fright of Real Tears: Krzysztof Kieslowski Between Theory and Post-Theory, London, British Film Institute, 2001

















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