The Ten Commandments, exact and uncompromising, literally cast in stone, continues to provide a source of moral conflict in contemporary society. In the ten part epic masterpiece, The Decalogue, Krzysztof Kieslowski examines the dilemma of fundamental sin in the lives of ordinary Warsaw citizens. A scientist (Henryk Baranowski) puts his faith in science and logic to govern daily life (Decalogue I). A violinist (Krystyna Janda), unable to decide between her husband and her lover, defers the impossible decision to her husband’s attending physician (Aleksander Bardini) (Decalogue II). A lonely woman (Maria Pakulnis) imposes on an ex-lover (Daniel Olbrychski) on Christmas Eve to search for her missing lover (Decalogue III). An acting student (Adrianna Biedrzynska) discovers an ominous letter from her father (Janusz Gajos) (Decalogue IV). A cruel young man (Miroslaw Baka) wanders through the streets in search of a random victim (Decalogue V). A young postal clerk (Olaf Linde Lubaszenko) falls in love with a neighboring artist (Grazyna Szapolowska) whom he admires from a distance (Decalogue VI). A struggling student (Maja Barelkowska) kidnaps her biological daughter (Katarzyna Piwowarczyk) (Decalogue VII). An ethics professor (Maria Koscialkowska) is confronted with the culpability of her actions when asked to harbor a Jewish girl during World War II (Decalogue VIII). A married couple (Piotr Machalica and Ewa Blaszczyk) learn to deal with the husband’s impotence (Decalogue IX). Two brothers (Zbigniew Zamachowski and Jerzy Stuhr) inherit their father’s priceless stamp collection (Decalogue X).
Defined as Kieslowski’s experimental, transitional work for Polish television, Decalogue is, in itself, a monumental achievement: a remarkable examination of moral tale colliding, and often yielding, against the bounds of human frailty. Kieslowski crafts each episode with a distinctive signature, creating serenely indelible, spare, and poetic imagery: the dripping of candle wax against the icon of the Virgin Mary in Decalogue I; the point source lighting of Decalogue IV; the raw, monochromatic presentation (using sepia overlay) of Decalogue V; the saturation of colors in Decalogue VI; the perversion of physical exercise as self-punishment in Decalogue IX. Throughout the film, a ubiquitous, enigmatic man serves as a silent witness to the moral fissure, but remains uninvolved – a chronicler of humanity, an omniscient presence who does not pass judgment. Invariably, Decalogue proves to be a testament for the venerable director as well, a profound observation on the trials and tribulations of everyday life, reflected in complex ways – direct and abstruse – but all fundamentally, and infallibly, human. –filmref.com
A towering figure of Eastern European cinema, Krzysztof Kieslowski was born in Warsaw, Poland, on June 27, 1941. His formative years, spent under the specters of Hitler and Stalin, were nomadic; his father suffered from tuberculosis, and the family traveled from one sanatorium to another. At the age of 16, Kieslowski entered Fireman’s Training College. His stay was short-lived, instilling a lifelong loathing of uniforms and disciplines. To avoid military service he returned to school, later attending the Warsaw College for Theatre Technicians. In 1965, after several previous rejections, he was finally accepted into the famed Lodz Film School — the same institution which launched the careers of Roman Polanski, Andrzej Wadja, Jerzy Skolimowski, and Krzysztof Zanussi — and made his first short feature, Tramwaj (The Tram), the following year.
The communist-controlled Poland of the 1960s and 1970s was a nation of great political unrest. Consequently, film emerged as a crucial means… read more
A film that is life changing (whether you are religious or not). Each episode gave an impression of how real people, real adults behave in real life and what moral challenges lie ahead. The Ten Commandments do not pose as restrictions (or rules) but rather giving a reflection of people conflicted with these problems. A true piece of art by a master of Polish cinema, showing how we are only human.
This is one of the first films I saw where huge, grand philosophical themes were placed into events that happen every day. These themes of God, sin, faith, existence, meaning, etc., didn't just occur in books--Kieslowski showed me that they occur with my actual life, actions, and relationships. And he does this by always having people and their emotions at the core of these themes.
Such accomplished cinematography (except 'the yellow one'), precious formalism, and perfect moments of human truth in his actors; yet so often with Kieslowski I find myself supremely irritated or just plain bored by his sanctimonious Catholic coldness - in a way he represents a conflict I have with my own Polishness. To quote David Thomson: ''those films seem to think they're perfect, and I want to scream''.
I’m not sure whether to consider this a film or television series; technically, it’s a television mini-series – 10 one hour episodes – but, because of it’s cinematic aesthetic and scope, it has been… read review