- The Decalogue
The Decalogue Directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski Produced by Ryszard Chutkowski Written by Krzysztof Kieślowski
Starring Henryk Baranowski
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 and co-written by Kieślowski with Krzysztof Piesiewicz, with music by Zbigniew Preisner. It consists of ten one-hour films, each of which represents one of the Ten Commandments (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 and has won numerous international awards, though it was not widely released outside Europe until the late 1990s. Filmmaker Stanley Kubrick wrote an admiring foreword to the published screenplay in 1991.
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.
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) 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, 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
Wieslaw Zdort Decalogue II You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God. Krystyna Janda
Edward Klosinski Decalogue III Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Daniel Olbrychski
Piotr Sobociński Decalogue IV Honor your father and your mother. Adrianna Biedrzyńska
Krzysztof Pakulski Decalogue V You shall not murder. Miroslaw Baka
Sławomir Idziak Decalogue VI You shall not commit adultery. Olaf Lubaszenko
Witold Adamek Decalogue VII You shall not steal. Anna Polony
Dariusz Kuc Decalogue VIII You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. Teresa Marczewska
Andrzej Jaroszewicz Decalogue IX You shall not covet your neighbor's wife. Ewa Blasczyk
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
(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. The DVD box issue holds 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 28 reviews. The series was also praised by some of the renowned film critics, including Roger Ebert  and Robert Fulford.
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. 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.
Longer feature films
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.
- ^ Bio of Krysztof Kieślowski on www.facets.org
- ^ http://www.offoffoff.com/film/2001/decalogue.php Series overview
- ^ Ten Commandmentw on http://catholic-resources.org
- ^ Critical response on www.facets.org
- ^ Stanley Kubrick review of the film on www.visual-memory.co.uk
- ^ The Decalogue cinematographers on www.facets.org
- ^ [Stok, Danusia, ed. (1993). Kieślowski on Kieślowski. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 0-571-17328-4]
- ^ Film critic Robert Ebert's introduction info/review of the series on http://rogerebert.suntimes.com
- ^ Critical response to the film on www.facets.org
- ^ Film review on www.rottentomatoes.com
- ^ Film review by Roger Ebert on http://rogerebert.suntimes.com
- ^ Film review by Robert Fulford on www.robertfulford.com
- ^ 2002 Sight & Sound Poll - All who voted for Dekalog
- ^ Modern Times
- ^ "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema | 36. The Decalogue". Empire. http://www.empireonline.com/features/100-greatest-world-cinema-films/default.asp?film=36.
- The Decalogue at the Internet Movie Database
- Facets Multi-Media: The Decalogue (synopsis, images, interview)
- The Decalogue at the Arts & Faith Top100 Spiritually Significant Films list
- Roger Ebert on The Decalogue
- Krzysztof Kieslowski filmografy
- Interview with Agnieszka Holland and Milos Stehlik on www.facets.org
- Images from the series on www.facets.org
- Short overview of The Decalogue and some other Kieslowski films on www.filmref.com
- Voted #2 on The Arts and Faith Top 100 Films (2010)
Directorial works of Krzysztof Kieślowski Feature films The Decalogue Short films Related topicsThe Three Colors Trilogy
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