Decalogue VIII

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Decalogue VIII
Decalogue osiem.png
Directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski
Produced by Ryszard Chutkovski
Written by Krzysztof Kieślowski
Krzysztof Piesiewicz
Starring Teresa Marczewska
Maria Kościałkowska
Music by Zbigniew Preisner
Cinematography Andrzej Jaroszewicz
Edited by Ewa Smal
Distributed by Polish Television
Release dates
1988
Running time
55 min.
Country Poland
Language Polish
Budget $10,000

The Decalogue - VIII (Polish: Dekalog, osiem) is the eighth part of the television series The Decalogue by Polish director Krzysztof Kieślowski, connected to the ninth imperative of the Ten Commandments, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor."

A Holocaust survivor (Teresa Marczewska) confronts an ethics professor (Maria Kościałowska) who once refused to help her on the basis of this commandment.[1]

Plot[edit]

Elżbieta (Teresa Marczewska) listening to lecture of professor Zofia (Maria Kościałkowska).

Warsaw, Poland, around year 1985. Zofia (Maria Koscialkowska) is an elderly but sporty university professor who is friends with stamp-collecting neighbour Czesłav "Root" Janicki. Elżbieta (Teresa Marczewska), a woman in her forties, who is from New York but speaks excellent Polish and is clearly of Polish descent, is visiting the University of Warsaw. She goes to Zofia's ethics lecture. Elżbieta and Zofia are professional acquaintances from the USA, Elżbieta having translated Zofia's works, and the latter is glad to introduce her friend to the students.

Zofia's lecture consists of the students posing ethical problems to be discussed in class. One of the students poses the case of a doctor and a woman who needs to have an abortion, the very dilemma that is the subject of Decalogue II. Elżbieta then gives an example on a real-life tale set in 1943, during World War II: a 6-year-old Jewish girl whose parents were sent to the ghetto is promised to get help from some willing Catholic family, yet the woman from the family refuses to provide the help and sends the girl away just before curfew.

Zofia figures out that Elżbieta herself was the small girl left to an uncertain fate, and that it was she, Zofia, who refused to help her. Her initial explanation that, being Catholics, they couldn't lie about Elżbieta's fake baptism is not good enough. Zofia asks Elżbieta to dinner, but instead drives her to the house where the scene took place in 1943. Here she expresses her deep regret and explains the real reason she refused her help: Zofia's husband was an officer of the Polish resistance and there were reports that the invading Germans were posing fake Jews in order to hunt down resistance fighters who helped Jews. This doesn't take away the fact that Zofia went along with abandoning 6-year-old Elżbieta to near-certain death. Back at Zofia's apartment, Janicki, the neighbour, enters and proudly shows Zofia his series of 1931 German stamps that he has recently acquired.

Zofia has had difficulties, over the years, living with what she did and didn't do during the war. Elżbieta asks to be taken to the family that had offered to help her, but when she gets there, the man, a tailor, refuses to speak about the war. Zofia tells her that he suffered a lot during and after the war and that is why he will not say anything.

The story was based on an experience of the filmmakers' mutual friend, the journalist Hanna Krall.[2][3][4][5]

Cast[edit]

Zofia (Maria Kościałkowska) and Elżbieta (Teresa Marczewska).

In other roles:

  • Marian Opania,

Wojciech Asinski, Marek Kepinski, Janusz Mond, Krzysztof Rojek, Wiktor Sanejko, Ewa Skibinska, Hanna Szcerkowska, Anna Zagorska

References[edit]