A Short Film About Killing

Brief Intro

“A Short Film About Killing” is a poignant 1988 film directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski. Set in the somber backdrop of Poland, it explores the brutal nature of murder and capital punishment through an unflinching lens. The film’s gritty realism and profound philosophical questions leave a lasting impact on viewers.

Literary Devices Used in A Short Film About Killing

1. Symbolism

Movie SceneDevice Example
The scene where the taxi driver cleans his car meticulouslyThe cleanliness symbolizes his attempt to control his environment and life, contrasting with the chaos of his eventual murder.
The final moments in the execution chamberThe use of shadows symbolizes the moral ambiguity and darkness surrounding the act of execution.

2. Foreshadowing

Movie SceneDevice Example
Jacek’s early aggressive behavior in the caféHints at his potential for violence and the forthcoming murder.
The ominous atmosphere as Jacek observes the taxi driver from afarPredicts the impending act of violence.

3. Irony

Movie SceneDevice Example
Jacek’s justification for killingDespite his desire for control, he ends up in a situation where he is utterly powerless.
The state’s execution of JacekHighlights the irony in the state punishing murder by committing a similar act.

4. Juxtaposition

Movie SceneDevice Example
The serene countryside vs. the violent murderEnhances the brutality of the act by contrasting it with peaceful surroundings.
Jacek’s youthful appearance vs. his heinous crimeCreates a stark contrast, emphasizing the complexity of human nature.

5. Metaphor

Movie SceneDevice Example
The hanging of the taxi’s air freshenerMetaphor for the fleeting nature of life.
The use of broken glass during the murderRepresents shattered lives and broken morality.

6. Motif

Movie SceneDevice Example
Recurring imagery of bars and cagesMotif symbolizing entrapment and confinement.
The frequent close-ups of facesEmphasizes human emotions and moral dilemmas.

7. Allegory

Movie SceneDevice Example
Jacek’s journey from the city to the countrysideAn allegory for the journey from innocence to corruption.
The courtroom scenesServe as an allegory for society’s judgment and moral authority.

8. Paradox

Movie SceneDevice Example
The murder vs. the executionBoth acts are paradoxically similar yet justified differently by society.
Jacek’s display of remorse vs. his initial brutalityHighlights the complexity of human conscience.

9. Allusion

Movie SceneDevice Example
References to religious imageryAlludes to themes of sin, judgment, and redemption.
The portrayal of the justice systemAlludes to Kafkaesque themes of bureaucracy and alienation.

10. Pathos

Movie SceneDevice Example
Jacek’s final moments before executionEvokes strong emotional response, highlighting the tragedy of his fate.
The reactions of the lawyer and Jacek’s familyStir empathy and underline the human cost of capital punishment.

Character Analysis Through Literary Devices

Main Characters

Jacek Lazar

SymbolismJacek’s worn-out clothes symbolize his broken spirit and societal neglect.
IronyHis ultimate vulnerability in the face of execution contrasts sharply with his earlier violence, emphasizing the irony of power dynamics.

Waldemar Rekowski (Taxi Driver)

JuxtapositionHis ordinary, mundane routine starkly contrasts with the sudden brutality of his murder, underscoring the randomness of violence.
MetaphorHis taxi symbolizes a microcosm of society, where ordinary interactions can turn deadly.

Piotr Balicki (Lawyer)

AllegoryPiotr represents the moral and ethical struggles of society, questioning the righteousness of capital punishment.
PathosHis emotional turmoil and dedication evoke sympathy and highlight the human side of the legal system.

Character Dynamics

The relationships between Jacek, the taxi driver, and the lawyer drive the narrative forward. The tension between Jacek’s brutal actions and Piotr’s moral dilemma creates a complex interplay that explores deeper themes of justice, morality, and humanity.

Thematic Analysis

Justice and Morality

IronyThe use of state-sanctioned execution as a form of justice highlights the moral contradictions in the legal system.
AllegoryThe courtroom scenes serve as an allegory for societal judgment, questioning the ethics of retribution.

The Nature of Violence

JuxtapositionThe stark contrast between peaceful settings and violent acts underscores the pervasive nature of violence.
SymbolismObjects like the broken glass during the murder symbolize the destructive impact of violence on human lives.

Human Fallibility

ParadoxThe film portrays both Jacek’s violent tendencies and his moments of vulnerability, highlighting the complexity of human nature.
MetaphorThe recurring motifs of confinement and entrapment symbolize the inherent flaws and limitations of individuals and society.

Cinematic Techniques That Enhance Literary Devices

Visual and Sound Techniques

Literary DeviceTechniqueExplanation
SymbolismUse of shadows and lightingEnhances the moral ambiguity and dark undertones of the narrative.
ForeshadowingOminous soundscapesBuilds tension and anticipates forthcoming violence.
IronyCamera angles and perspectivesContrasts the characters’ perceived control with their actual helplessness.
PathosClose-ups and musicEvokes strong emotional responses, emphasizing the tragic elements of the story.

Key Scene Analysis

Scene Selection

  1. Jacek’s Murder of the Taxi Driver
  2. Jacek’s Execution
    • Watch Scene on YouTube
    • Breakdown: The use of shadows, close-ups, and sound design in this scene enhances the themes of justice and morality, creating a powerful emotional impact.


Test your understanding of the literary devices used in “A Short Film About Killing” with this interactive quiz:


  1. What does the taxi symbolize in the film?
    • A) Freedom
    • B) Control
    • C) Society
    • D) Isolation
  2. Which literary device is primarily used to highlight the moral ambiguity of the death penalty?
  3. What is the primary theme explored through Jacek’s character arc?
    • A) Redemption
    • B) Justice
    • C) Violence
    • D) Love
  4. Which technique is used to evoke pathos in the execution scene?

Answers: 1-C, 2-B, 3-B, 4-C