Tuesday, 27 July 2010

The Decalogue. ‘The Cinema of Moral Anxiety’

Along with co-writer Krzysztof Piesiewiicz, director Kryzysztof Kieslowski wrote the Polish television miniseries The Decalogue (1989). It consisted of ten one hour films each of which is loosely based one of the Ten Commandments and explores the possible meaning of each commandment although the connection is not always clear or obvious. These fictional stories are set in modern contemporary Poland with a fairly bleak Warsaw apartment complex as its central core. Kieslowski masterwork uses the series of films as a depiction of the hardships of modern Polish society. Rarely can a film be described as a true work of art, but Kieslowski’s The Decalogue earns the right to do just that. This series of films gets very close to portraying what it means to be human and questions what life is really about. He’s never judgmental and there is no right or wrong.

Two of the series where extended and made into feature films by Kieslowski A Short Film about Love (1988) and the graphic A Short Film about Killing (1988). Following The Decalogue and before his untimely death during open heart surgery, at the age of 54 in 1996, he made four of his most celebrated films The Double Life of Veronique (1991) and three films that make up The Three Colours Trilogy: Blue (1993) White (1994) and Red (1994).

Decalogue 1 ‘I am the Lord thy God thou shalt have no other gods before me’

Young Pawel lives with his father who introduces him to the wonders of the computer age. When the boy wants to try out his new skates they consult the machine, which according to his father can not be wrong, but in this case it is and the ice can not hold the boys weight as the computer predicts, because of a freak local thaw

Decalogue 2 ‘Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord they God in vain’

A handsome woman has a dilemma and she desperately needs the advice of her doctor. Her husband lies dying in the hospital and he has no idea that she is pregnant by another man. If he does not survive she can have her baby, if he lives she feels that she must abort it. The doctor must decide the fate of Dorota’s baby, possible her last chance to have a child of her own.

Decalogue 3 ‘Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy’

A lonely woman tricks an ex-lover in to spending Christmas Eve with her away from his own family.

Decalogue 4 ‘Honer thy father and mother’

Anka’s mother died 15 year ago. While her father is away on a short business trip she discovers that her mother had wrote her a letter just before she died. Michal has been keeping it from her until his death. The inquisitive 20 year old can’t wait till then! Life will never be the same for either of them.

Decalogue 5 ‘Thou shalt not kill’

The young Jacek randomly and brutally murders a taxi-driver. A novice lawyer, Piotr, defends him but there’s no evidence for the defence and no apparent motive. He obviously loses the case, which establishes doubts about his chosen career?

Decalogue 6 ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’

Tomek works in the local post office and lodges in his absent friend’s mother’s apartment. Using a stolen telescope he spies on his beautiful but promiscuous neighbour playing tricks on her and her various lovers. Eventually he confessing his love to her she in turn invites him in to her flat and offers herself to the young virgin. Tragic circumstances follow.

Decalogue 7 ‘Thou shalt not steal’

Six-year-old Ania has bad dreams. She is being brought up by her grandma, Ewa, whom she thinks is her mother, but her real mother is Ewa’s daughter Majka! Tied of living a lie Majka is desperate to have Ania love her as a mother. After kidnapping the child her real mother takes her to stay with her birth father. Grandma and Granddad are not happy with the situation.

Decalogue 8 ‘Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour’

Elzbieta is visiting from New York to research the fate of Jewish war survivors. After sitting in on a lecture at the Warsaw University she approaches Professor Zofia and tells her that she is the wee Jewish girl whom Zofia refused to shelter from the Nazis during the occupation of Warsaw. Elzbieta wants to know the reason for this apparent cowardice?

Decalogue 9 ‘Thou shalt not covert thy neighbors wife’

Roman, a surgeon in the local hospital, is unable to make love to his beautiful wife Hanka. He tells her she must take a lover but she tells him it’s unnecessary because she still loves him despite his impotency. Roman however does not trust his wife perhaps for good reason: she already has a lover, a young student. Their clandestine meetings are held in her mother’s vacant apartment. Hanka decides to end the affair but her husband does not believe this to be the case, leaves her a note and attempts to take his own life.

Decalogue 10 ‘Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maid, nor his goods, nor anything that is your neighbors’

A lonely old man dies; he has an extremely valuable stamp collection that he leaves to his estranged sons, the family man Jerzy and the heavy rock musician Artur.

Neither of them knows anything about stamps, but both are unwilling to sell them. With one stamp needed to complete a valuable set Jerzy donates his kidney in exchange for the valuable item. When a burglary takes place and the entire collection vanishes the brothers suspect each other.

Decalogue 6  'Thou shalt not commit adultery'

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