A Short Film about Killing (Krotki film o zabijaniu) and Blind Chance (Przypadek)

Famed Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieslowski explores what might happen to someone’s life if one little incident were changed in his 1981 Blind Chance. (Think Groundhog Day with a decidedly darkly and ironic Polish twist.) The story restarts three times. Medical student Witek (a young Boguslaw Linda, who would soon become one of Poland’s most respected actors) is trying to catch a train into Warsaw. Each time Witek races to the train, there’s a man drinking beer on the platform. The first time, he sidesteps the man and barely makes it onto the train. The second time, he crashes right into the man and the third time, he almost careens into the man. It’s the differences in his encounters with the man that set Witek on a different course for his future.

Familiar faces turn up in each segment. “It’s not just pure chance,” someone says early on. “I wouldn’t be so sure,” comes the reply.

Seven years after the release of Blind Chance, Kieslowski signed with TV Poland for a ten-part series on the Ten Commandments, The Decalogue (1988), set in modern Warsaw. He stipulated that he be allowed to take two of the one-hour stories and expand them into free-standing movies. Episode V, the “thou shalt not murder” plot, was adapted into A Short Film About Killing, a stark, unflinching look at murder and its repercussions. Three lives intersect in this prize-winning film, which was co-written with Krzysztof Piesiewicz: There’s a psychotic drifter, a taxi driver who is brutally bludgeoned by the drifter and the innocent young lawyer who defends the murderer. The murder is senseless and grotesque; the drifter’s punishment is equally grotesque. In the washed-out, heavily filtered cinematography by Slawomir Idziak, Warsaw has never looked so dispirited: green or sulfurous yellow around the edges of the frame. A heartfelt plea against capital punishment, A Short Film About Killing was influential in the eventual abolition of Poland’s death penalty.

Both films are part of the series Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s month-long series of restored landmark films.

See A Short Film About Killing at 3 p.m. on November 30; it’s followed by Blind Chance at 4:45 p.m. 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713‑639‑7515 or visit mfah.org. $9.
Sun., Nov. 30, 3 & 4:45 p.m., 2014

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D.L. Groover has contributed to countless reputable publications including the Houston Press since 2003. His theater criticism has earned him a national award from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia (AAN) as well as three statewide Lone Star Press Awards for the same. He's co-author of the irreverent appreciation, Skeletons from the Opera Closet (St. Martin's Press), now in its fourth printing.
Contact: D. L. Groover