Dekalog: The Ten Commandments - Parts 1 - 5 and Parts 6 - 10

Dekalog: The Ten Commandments - Parts 1 - 5 and Parts 6 - 10

*****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

After Andrzej Wajda came Krzysztof Kieslowski. Polish directors thrived during the years of Communist subsidy, especially the clever ones. Now that Eastern European cinema is following Hollywood's lead in popular culture, what inspires about Kieslowski's work in the late Eighties is its intellectual purity.

Dekalog consists of 10 films, each about an hour long, set in an ugly Warsaw high-rise estate, themed, however vaguely, around The Ten Commandments. Neither religion, nor politics, take much part in these human stories. They are concerned with love, rejection, fear, loneliness and sudden death.

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Scripted by Kieslowski and former attorney Krzysztof Piesiewicz, they use different cinematographers for each commandment, thus avoiding uniformity and encouraging innovation. Originally made for TV, the stories have a powerful emotional intensity.

Sex, loss and death appear central. Kieslowski offers no absolution for the guilt of survival. A perfect child is cruelly taken. A dark secret haunts the loving friendship between father and daughter. A senseless murder leads to retribution. A 19-year-old postal worker discovers that voyeurism is no substitute for the real thing. A teenage single mother kidnaps her own child. An American survivor of the pogroms returns to the scene of the crimes.

Kieslowski's style is to observe and record. He abhors cliché, sentimentality or easy answers. Relationships have a tendency to be shot through with contradiction. First impressions disguise the truth. Although simple in their approach to human complexities, the films display an honesty that cuts deep.

Dekalog is probably the finest example of filmmaking in the last three decades.

Reviewed on: 31 Aug 2002
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Dekalog: The Ten Commandments - Parts 1 - 5 and Parts 6 - 10 packshot
Ten films set in Warsaw, based on the 10 commandments.
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