The Decalogue

The Decalogue
The Decalogue
Directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski
Produced by Ryszard Chutkowski
Written by Krzysztof Kieślowski
Krzysztof Piesiewicz
Starring Henryk Baranowski
Krystyna Janda
Aleksander Bardini
Daniel Olbrychski
Janusz Gajos
Miroslaw Baka
Grażyna Szapołowska
Olaf Lubaszenko
Maja Barelkowska
Maria Koscialkowska
Teresa Marczewska
Ewa Blasczyk
Piotr Machalica
Jerzy Stuhr
Zbigniew Zamachowski
Artur Barcis
Release date(s) December 10, 1989
Running time approx. 55 min each of 10 episodes
Language Polish
Budget approx. $ 100.000 (all parts)

The Decalogue (Polish: Dekalog) is a 1989 Polish television drama series directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski[1] and co-written by Kieślowski with Krzysztof Piesiewicz, with music by Zbigniew Preisner.[2] It consists of ten one-hour films, each of which represents one of the Ten Commandments[3] (according to their Roman Catholic division) and explores possible meanings of the commandment—often ambiguous or contradictory—within a fictional story set in modern Poland. The series is Kieślowski's most acclaimed work[citation needed] and has won numerous international awards, though it was not widely released outside Europe until the late 1990s.[4] Filmmaker Stanley Kubrick wrote an admiring foreword to the published screenplay in 1991.[5]



Artur Barcis in one of his nameless cameo roles, observing the characters of the first episode of The Decalogue series.

Though each film is independent, most of them share the same setting (a large housing project in Warsaw) and some of the characters are acquainted with each other. The large cast includes both famous actors and unknowns, many of whom Kieślowski also used in his other films. Typically for Kieślowski, the tone of most of the films is melancholic, except for the final one, which, like Three Colors: White, is a black comedy, and features two of the same actors, Jerzy Stuhr and Zbigniew Zamachowski.

The series was conceived when Piesiewicz, who had seen a 15th-century artwork illustrating the commandments in scenes from that time period, suggested the idea of a modern equivalent. Kieślowski was interested in the philosophical challenge and also wanted to use the series as a portrait of the hardships of Polish society, while deliberately avoiding the political issues he had depicted in earlier films. He originally meant to hire ten different directors, but decided to direct the films himself, though using a different cinematographer for each with exception of episodes III and IX, both cinematographed by Piotr Sobociński.[6]

There is also a nameless character, played by Artur Barciś, possibly supernatural, who observes the main characters at key moments but never intervenes (this character also appears in all episodes except 10).

Episode Character played by Artur Barciś
Decalogue I A homeless man sitting by a fire near the lake
Decalogue II An orderly in the hospital
Decalogue III A tram driver
Decalogue IV A man rowing a boat and later seen carrying the boat
Decalogue V A construction worker holding a measuring pole and then as a different construction worker carrying a ladder
Decalogue VI A man carrying bags of groceries
Decalogue VII A man on the railway station (However Kieślowski experienced technical difficulties including him in this episode)[7]
Decalogue VIII A student at the University (He appears suddenly)
Decalogue IX A man riding a bicycle
Decalogue X Does not appear

Milk also plays as a symbol in some of the films:

Episode Role of milk
Decalogue I The milk is sour.
Decalogue II The doctor carries milk almost all the time.
Decalogue IV Michal is going to buy milk at the end.
Decalogue VI Tomek delivers milk and Magda spills it.
Decalogue IX Roman is pouring milk while watching a child play.


The ten films are titled simply by number (e.g. Decalogue: One). In English, they are sometimes referred to by the commonly used short forms of the commandments based on the King James Bible text (see below), however the themes are fashioned after the commandments after the catholic ritual, considering the Polish religious background. According to Roger Ebert's introduction to the DVD set,[8] Kieślowski said that the films did not correspond exactly to the commandments, and never used their names himself. However, they appear to follow the order of the commandments found in Deuteronomy chapter 5.


Episode Commandment Cast Cinematography
Decalogue I I am the Lord your God; you shall have no other gods before me. Henryk Baranowski
Wojciech Klata
Maja Komorowska
Wieslaw Zdort
Decalogue II You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God. Krystyna Janda
Aleksander Bardini
Olgierd Łukaszewicz
Edward Klosinski
Decalogue III Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Daniel Olbrychski
Maria Pakulnis
Joanna Szczepowska
Piotr Sobociński
Decalogue IV Honor your father and your mother. Adrianna Biedrzyńska
Janusz Gajos
Adam Hanuszkiewicz
Krzysztof Pakulski
Decalogue V You shall not murder. Miroslaw Baka
Jan Tesarz
Krzysztof Globisz
Sławomir Idziak
Decalogue VI You shall not commit adultery. Olaf Lubaszenko
Grażyna Szapołowska
Witold Adamek
Decalogue VII You shall not steal. Anna Polony
Maja Barelkowska
Katarzyna Piwowarczyk
Dariusz Kuc
Decalogue VIII You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. Teresa Marczewska
Maria Koscialkowska
Andrzej Jaroszewicz
Decalogue IX You shall not covet your neighbor's wife. Ewa Blasczyk
Piotr Machalica
Jan Jankowski
Piotr Sobociński
Decalogue X You shall not covet your neighbor’s house, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. Jerzy Stuhr
Zbigniew Zamachowski
Jacek Blawut

(This list follows Catholic and Lutheran tradition; most other Christian denominations and Judaism follow the original division of the commandments as they are written in the Book of Exodus. Poland is predominantly Catholic.)


The Decalogue was admired by critics as well as by important figures from the movie industry such as Stanley Kubrick.[9] The DVD box issue holds 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 28 reviews.[10] The series was also praised by some of the renowned film critics, including Roger Ebert [11] and Robert Fulford.[12]

In the 2002 Sight & Sound poll to determine the greatest films of all time, The Decalogue and A Short Film About Killing received votes from 4 critics and 3 directors, including Ebert, New Yorker critic David Denby, and director Mira Nair.[13] Additionally, in the Sight & Sound poll held the same year to determine the top 10 films of the previous 25 years, Kieslowski was named #2 on the list of Top Directors, with votes for his films being split between Decalogue, Three Colors Red/Blue, and The Double Life of Veronique.[14]

Longer feature films

German DVD cover

Kieślowski expanded Five and Six into longer feature films (A Short Film About Killing and A Short Film About Love), using the same cast and changing the stories slightly. This was part of a contractual obligation with the producers, since feature films were easier to distribute outside Poland. In 2000, the series was released on five DVDs, each containing two parts of about 2 hours.

Ranked #36 in Empire magazines "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema" in 2010.[15]


External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Tables of the Decalogue — stone tablets upon which God wrote the Ten Commandments …   English contemporary dictionary

  • DECALOGUE — (The Ten Commandments). The statements of God quoted by Moses in Deuteronomy 5:6–18 are entitled the ten words, or utterances (Heb. עֲשֶׂרֶתהַדְּבָרִים aseret ha devarim; LXX δέκα ῥήματα (Deut. 4:13), δέκα λόγοι (10:4). The same title in Exodus… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Decalogue II — Directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski Produced by Ryszard Chutkovski …   Wikipedia

  • Decalogue V — DVD poster Directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski Produced by Ryszard Chutkovski …   Wikipedia

  • Decalogue VII — DVD poster Directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski Produced by Ryszard Chutkovsk …   Wikipedia

  • Decalogue VIII — DVD poster Directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski Produced by Ryszard Ch …   Wikipedia

  • Decalogue X — DVD poster Directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski Produced by Ryszard …   Wikipedia

  • Decalogue I — Directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski Produced by Ryszard Chutkovski Yoram Globus …   Wikipedia

  • Decalogue III — Directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski Produced by Ryszard Chutkovski …   Wikipedia

  • Decalogue IV — DVD poster Directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski Produced by Ryszard Chut …   Wikipedia

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