Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Krótki film o milosci

The best thing about Krzysztof Kieślowski's Krótki film o milosci (A Short Film about Love) is probably that it shows an aspect of love which is very, very less understood, and is able to demonstrate that love has myriad forms, takes myriad sentiments as its ways of outpouring, including those banned by society to be even thought of: cases in point being incest, voyeurism, lust itself (and not as something distinct) and a sadistic desire and search for pain. Different people, different attractions, different names, but each one of them is "love", since each one of them is the search of a human being for something reciprocal, which sometimes he tries to find in himself through the other or which sometimes he tries to beget in himself through the other, or which sometimes he tries to destroy in himself through the other.

The film on its surface is a simple story about an adolescent falling into an intense love affair just by being a voyeur, just by watching the past-middle-aged artist who lives opposite and has a slew of sexual encounters with men, presumably agents to whom she is trying to convince to sell her artwork. The men of course take full advantage of her willingness to sell herself but probably never actually do buy something; at least, she is only a struggling artist, an unknown. But when you try to reflect on what does the story mean, on why certain things happen, and what else could have happened, it is then you tend to get absorbed completely in never thought-of issues.

One of the most striking things, established well at the outset of the film, is the sympathy placed on the voyeur. So while the same society which calls a voyeur a pervert watches this same film already anticipating their sympathies towards the voyeur. And the director doesn't fail them; he shows a sensitive boy, for company only his friend's mother, a secretive boy, and a boy who moves away his telescope when the woman opposite actually starts having sex with the man in her apartment. Later on, the boy confesses to the woman that he used to watch the complete ritual, but in any case this is never shown in the film. And we don't know whether the boy has only made this up to the woman in order to hide his sensitivity or he really used to see everything. After all, there are contradictory accounts of the origin of the telescope itself - while the boy claims that this was given to him by the friend in whose apartment (and with whose mother) he is living now and instructed to see the nice body opposite, the friend's mother later on in the film tells the woman that this is the boy's own contrivance. A doubt obviously ensues over how much the boy used to see. And considering the whole film, I think he saw "everything" but only once, and he was revolted by it.

This is essential to the film, in order to understand the hypersensitivity of the boy, who lives in his dreams, and creates his own pain. It's his friend's mother's teaching that when you've got a toothache press a hot iron to your shoulder, in order to forget the lesser pain against the greater pain. So in fact you just delude yourself into another pain, but all the while the consciousness burns inside you that why did you press the hot iron! Quite an extraordinarily suicidal teaching for a sensitive soul! It is against this backdrop of the fresh, virginal soul of the boy that this worldly woman who has sold herself to countless people but who does not enjoy any of those and keeps on somehow struggling for art, it is against this canvas the story unfolds of the boy who cannot bear that the woman whom she adores from distance breaks down, even if in private, that she cries! But unfortunately by calling her to the post office twice on false pretext only makes the woman unhappier, more bitter, and a butt of society's jokes on a lonely, poor woman.

The most interesting part of the film is the woman's reaction to the boy's confession that he watches her. It is almost never shock, except for the very initial moment; she's too tired for that, as if she's saying that ok, this was one joke yet to be played on me. But it is disbelief, of something as absurd as love itself and that too from a boy who doesn't even know her. Believing it to be just a passing stage of adolescent lust, which should be best relieved, she makes every effort of seducing the boy. And unwittingly strikes at the soul of the boy; he loves her pain and her heroic effort to not to show her pain, more than being excited about her body. It is only when he is now beyond her reach, she realises that love does exist in the world, even for a "fallen woman". The painful interlude has now probably taught each of them new things, things each of them were in need of: the boy has now been scratched, there will never be that fresh soul, he has stepped into manhood; the woman has also stepped into womanhood, she knows now that love exist, she knows now that beauty exists, and she has greater things to live for now. Maybe she is not going to seduce shady agents any longer.

The film's composition is the remarkable feature which makes the film riveting for the viewer. The film is always from the point of view of the boy, except the last part when it completely shifts to the woman. So there's no third observer in the film, no third eye. The boy's room is never shown in much detail, is not glossed over much; and most of the film goes as if one is watching the film itself through a binocular. The characters chosen are remarkable, especially the mysterious, sadistic old woman who is the boy's friend's mother and the bestial lover of the woman who is best seen peering through keyholes. It's an interesting aside to note that the woman does not have any charming, suave lovers; the most carnal instincts which prompt men to her door are compared against the platonic instincts of the boy which prompt him to even become a milkman at her door.

I only wish Kieślowski would have made Nabokov's "Lolita" and Dostoyevsky's "Poor Folks", he was so perfect for these neglected masterpieces.

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