Krzysztof Kieslowski, the internationally renowned filmmaker best known for his TROIS COULEURS trilogy (BLUE, WHITE, and RED), created perhaps his most ambitious work with this ten-part series produced for Polish television in 1988 and 1989. Each of the ten segments, running between 53 and 58 minutes in length, takes place among the inhabitants of a Warsaw apartment complex, and focuses on a moral and ethical quandary inspired by the Ten Commandments, of which Kieslowski said, "For 6,000 years these rules have been unquestionably right, and yet we break them every day." After TV showings in Europe and many international film festivals and art-house screenings, THE DECALOGUE was released on home video in the spring of 2000. (review from Rotten Tomatoes)
You can now find each episode on You Tube in 10 minute segments.
I have been watching this series of Dekalogs this week on DVD. I am up to Dekalog 7 and like a good book, I don't want the series to end.
Decalogue is an amazing body of work: a series of filmed morality plays if you will. Kieslowski charges each episode with a distinctive quality, creating spare, human dramas like tone poems. Each of the ten parts of the series is a keen observation of everyday life, with all its fundamental conundrums and choices, and therefore its human frailties. Each is lovingly rendered by a director who claims that he wants to make films about what brings people together instead of what separates them ( nationality, religion, politics, history etc. )
I can say that Kieslowski achieves this ambition. What I find immensely satisfying is that each dekalog poses more questions than it answers. The provocative nature of each film means that you are left dwelling on the story long after the popcorn box is empty. (In fact popcorn is too frivolous an accompaniment for these serious, philosophical studies.) And it is gently provoking that one is never even sure which of the commandments is being portrayed. There are no pat answers to be deftly tucked away, no Hollywood resolutions, but instead one is left with a searing glimpse of human behavior with all of its ironies, tenderness and cruelties.
Kieslowski's choice of actors is fascinating. These are ordinary, but extraordinary people. The true sign of talent and sensitivity in the craft is that one doesn't think that they are actors at all. There are few players in the series, however, that one doesn't remember for his face, his intelligent acting choices and his authenticity. The craft of acting is hidden by these professionals.
The stories of the dekolog are universal in a way that is seldom seen nowadays for Kieslowski is an achingly sensitive film-maker. There is a melancholy or darkness that runs through all of them and perhaps that is the personal experience of the writer /director disaffected with life in beleaguered Poland.... but what shines through the pieces is what it means to be frail and fallible, what it means to be human at any time in history, at any place.