A Short Film About Love
John Farr | 07/06/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"An expanded episode from Kieslowski's made-for-TV "Decalogue" cycle, "Love" is an idiosyncratic meditation on the sixth commandment that inquires into the nature of love and desire. With superb lead actors, naturalistic lighting, and a sparse, rueful score, Kieslowski digs into the heart of the matter to defend an almost Platonic vision of l'amour. The relationship that develops between Magda and Tomek may be unconventional and even disturbing--Tomek's voyeurism has more than a hint of psychological obsession--but Kieslowski eventually grounds his story in Magda's emotional epiphany. See this lyrical and affecting tale "About Love," and you'll be moved to reconsider your own views on the subject."
Is it love or obsession?
Dennis Littrell | SoCal | 08/30/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The only criticism I would have of this enthralling Polish language film by the great Polish-French director Krzysztof Kieslowski is his use of the "opened window" conceit. Magda (Grazyna Szapolowska) is a woman who lives alone in a high rise housing development. She is sexy and cynical to the point of not believing in love. To her it is all desire, and the fulfillment or frustration of desire. Across the way from her lives a virginal young man by the name of Tomek (Olaf Lubaszenko) who has been spying on her from his apartment window through a telescope.
He lives with a friend's mother (Stefania Iwinska) who looks after him as her own son. He works in the post office and obsesses about Magda's life. He watches her with her beaux. He even goes so far as to write a couple of phony money order slips for her and put them in her mailbox just so she will have to go to his window and ask about them. When she does he is able to examine her features closely. Is his an obsession or is it love? Kieslowski's answer is that it is love, love with the kind of depth and feeling that Magda cannot even imagine until she experiences it. And then she is amazed and dumbfounded.
The key scene in the movie occurs when Tomek is finally able to be together with the object of his love, in her apartment, with her telling him that "When a woman wants a man she gets wet inside." And she invites him to check it out, so to speak. But what happens does not lead to any kind of fulfillment. Instead Tomek is inadvertently humiliated.
And that's the story, more or less. As usual with Kieslowski, human feelings predominate and are stark and one might say conflicted--the conflict arising between humankind's baser instincts and the more civilized ones of society. What he does here is turn the stalker into the saint, in a sense, and the object of his love into something unworthy of that love.
The question might arise: is it realistic to believe that a woman would leave her windows open and her lights on for all to see inside while she goes about her private life? No, it isn't. But we have to accept this device. After that the film is fully realistic to the point of even being mundane in its depiction of middle class city life. The characters are ordinary and even a little boring except for Tomek's supreme obsession. It is this "jewel" in the heart of the Polish city that lifts his life and her life above the ordinary. Even though we know that she is too old and too world-weary for him and that he is too hopelessly young and inexperienced for her for lasting love to ever bloom between them, we cannot help but think how wonderful it would be if we could all feel as he does, or be the object of such love.
Usually when this theme is worked out it is the obsessed who suffer greatly, it is the obsessed who are to be pitied--and we do to some extent feel something close to that for Tomek. But here it is Magda who we end up pitying the more because of her inability to love. Compared to Tomek she is a deprived creature who will never find true happiness--unless she learns this lesson she has gotten from this young man whose passion for her was unlike anything she had ever experienced before.
And this is Kieslowski's point: it is not only better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. It is only through love that we can truly identify with another human being. We see this in the scene where Madga is looking through Tomek's telescope into her apartment window and recalling what he had seen one day, the day that she had come home and spilled the milk and sat at the table crying over that spilled milk (very typical of Kieslowski to use such an obvious, but telling and entirely apt cliche) after a breakup with one of her boyfriends. In memory she sees Tomek looking at her crying and running her finger through the spilled milk, and she realizes the depth of his commiseration with her and his love for her, and in her mind's eye she sees him beside her (as he truly was psychologically) with his hand on her shoulder and love in his heart.
We might think that at some other time she will look back on a relationship she had had in her life and realize that the failure was due to a lack of love on her part. Indeed she more or less reveals that to us when she tells Tomek's "Godmother" that no, she is not the right person for Tomek. We know that she is too cynical and would only use him temporarily for gratification, and that would be all.
But I was left with the sense that Magda would indeed learn from her experience and would be transformed. There is this sense of hope and the possibility of emotional and spiritual growth that is often seen in the films of Krzysztof Kieslowski."