My thoughts on Krzysztof Kieslowski’s ‘A short film about Love’

Praveen Prasanna
5 min readSep 12, 2019

I need to admit this is my first polish film watch and vaguely do i know the director Krzysztof Kieslowski. The vagueness lies in remembering the film posters of “Three Colors” that I came to know it was directed by him.

The title of the film is a bit bizarre “A short film about Love”. I watched this film in MUBI, the title was the only reason that urged me to click and explore what the film is all about. You need to have some real balls to keep titles that sound like statements and it is a huge responsibility and fear for a film-maker that the film had to live to the expectation of it’s ambitious title. Eg. ‘ In The Mood For Love

This film can be compared as ‘a Rear Window meets Malena’ on a treatment level. There are no multiple layers in which the plot evolves like the Rear Window and no deep character sketches with respect to the passage of time like Malena and yet the film is rich and profound.

The plot is simple, boy sees girl(women), boy loves girl(women), the women doesn’t reciprocate at the right moment, the boy leaves.

The story is about a teenage boy whose everyday interest in life is to set up a telescope and watch a women in his neighborhood, a voyeuristic fascination in watching all night from his room’s window. The women who he is watching must be in her mid thirties. The gratification from this act doesn’t stop for cheap pleasures, he observes her gestures when she is alone, takes a note of men who visit her, empathizes when she cries and goes to an extent where he cannot accept watching her having sex with the men coming to her house which he has done before. As days pass by he is so obsessed with her and labels the strong feelings he accumulates as ‘Love’.

These secretive peeping obsession do not continue for long as he confronts and breaks the news he is watching her. Initially she considers him funny and hopeless. Days later when on a casual date she asks him what does he want from her. A kiss ? or the body ? he replies as ‘ nothing’. He is not sure what fascinates him by watching her. He is not articulate, he doesn’t have a definite answer and he is honest about it. This is the most beautiful part of the film, part philosophical and part artistic.

She develops a liking for the way he is with all his naiveness and innocence and is ready to have some temporary connections. At one point she invites him to be with her. He says he loves her for which she replies she doesn’t believe in such things. We could understand why she refuses to believe in the concept of love, all these years these experiences with men has taught her it is all about short lived physical connections and a promise called ‘Love’ is just a fancy word that really doesn’t mean anything. She wants him to teach ‘Love’ doesn’t exist and it is a mere physical desire which he has. I am not going to spoil the scene and saving it for you to watch yourself. The way the scene is staged is a proof how powerful can a story to be told visually and a success for Cinema itself.

After this scene everything takes a role reversal which is fascinating in terms of craft and character study. The voyeuristic shots of camera that was watching her reverses the grammar and starts watching him. I really loved the succession of her emotions after this particular incident. This is the point where she starts believing there is still something called “Love” though she is not completely bowled over by it in the past. And it is funny that the boy starts considering ‘Love’ doesn’t exist as he was thinking.

There is a grandma in the film who comes as a mentor-type figure, something of the sort of Jospeh Campbell’s ‘Meeting with Mentor’ stage of the mono-myth story structure. I really loved the way she is throughout the film. In the beginning when the boy asks why do people cry, her answer to him was like a Bergmanesque meditation about the human condition. In the end I was thinking the grandma would stop the women entering into their house by telling the boy is not at home. What she rather did was a beautiful thing which can be witnessed only on screen and not in words.

‘A short story about love’ is a definite example of how films can explore human characters with complete honesty. My usual practice is after i watch a film I used to read the reviews of it in letterboxd, rotten tomatoes and YouTube to understand how others see it and to check if i have missed something or if someone shares the way i have seen the film. I do not take the reviewers articles seriously but I am in look out for what the general audience who saw the film felt about it. This is because there is so much realness in the words of a common audience or a blogger than of a paid reviewer. I want to end this note with the words of mine but i came across some comments which almost sumps up perfectly what I felt.

And here is something from the film-maker himself.

“It comes from a deep-rooted conviction that if there is anything worthwhile doing for the sake of culture, then it is touching on subject matters and situations which link people, and not those that divide people. There are too many things in the world that divide people, such as religion, politics, history, and nationalism. If culture is capable of anything, then it is finding that which unites us all. And there are so many things that unite people. It doesn’t matter who you are or who I am, if your tooth aches or mine; it’s still the same pain. Feelings are what link people together, because the word ‘love’ has the same meaning for everybody. Or ‘fear’, or ‘suffering’. We all fear the same way and the same things. And we all love in the same way. That’s why I tell about these things, because in all other things I immediately find division.”- Krzysztof Kieślowski