A certain intimacy must be displayed in any given romantic movie. Everything from Before Sunset to Punch-Drunk Love to Casablanca has a closeness that ties the whole thing together. That is what romance is, in essence. That feeling, that intimacy, that is shared between two people. And when relating space to this, people tend to associate a literal closeness to love.
Two people being close together, holding hands, kissing, and creating physical contact is an image we see very frequently in film. And that’s where Krzystof Kieślowski masters A Short Film About Love. A raw, real sense of love, mysterious as it is, fills every frame.
The first part of the film follows our male protagonist, Tomek, and his infatuation with Magda, and older artist whom he neighbors. His godmother, whom he frequently talks to, attempts to understand the state of him and his relationship. This act is mostly shown from a decent distance, as Tomek mostly watches Magda through a binocular, admiring her from afar.
“The space between Tomek and Magda expresses how far away they are from each other in a mental sense.”
This physical distance that’s explored in the first half, with clear Rear Window inspiration to top it off, shows a very nice relation to metaphorical distance. The space between Tomek and Magda expresses how far away they are from each other in a mental sense. Magda with her mind on art and the men that come in and out of her life, Tomek with her mind on her.
How affection from afar is shown here can be related to many different situations of today. The way this can be tied into people and social media is unintended genius from Kieślowski. It gives the film a sense of agelessness that many only wish for.
The second half of the film occurs after Tomek arranges to meet Magda, face to face. Going back to the use of physical space as a metaphor, as soon as the space between them is closer, the feelings between them quickly change. Magda is quickly and suddenly taken aback by Tomek.
At this point in the film, the themes and the perspective of the film shift. We are no longer looking through a pair of binoculars, we are Magda, looking at Tomek. And from longing from a distance, the films focus turns to the mystery of love. Love as a concept in this film, much like life, is never properly explained. It’s mysterious draw and interesting functions drives the relationship between Magda and Tomek.
It’s particularly beautiful because it never falls into the cliches, the tropes that even some of the best romances tend to fall into. It’s a film that feels natural, almost life like. An honest and unbridled depiction of two people and the things that bring them together. And, without spoiling the concluding events of the film, shows how love can overcome the toughest of situations.
“A Short Film About Love might be the most overlooked work in Kieślowskis body of work.”
A question Tomeks godmother asks him is “Are you seeing someone?” And while this seems to be a simple questions asked by a parent wanting to know more about their son, it sets the core values of the film in stake. Because the question is intentionally ambiguous, leaving room for interpretation of whether Tomek is seeing someone.
Because in the first act of the film Tomek is seeing someone, despite them not knowing so. And in the second they finally come around to seeing each other. What is normally passed off as a simple question here is turned into a complex one. Tomek has always seen Magda, and eventually Magda finally sees Tomek. Literally and metaphorically. It’s a beautiful expression of words from Kieślowski.
A Short Film About Love might be the most overlooked work in Kieślowskis body of work. It’s a film that should be appreciated more, being the base of Dekalog VI. It’s one of the most raw romances of recent memory, being even more socially aware today than it was in 1988. A beautiful portrait of how we seek each other out as humans. If you have not seen this yet, I highly recommend you seek it out and support one of the best filmmakers of all time.
“Are you seeing someone?”