The Decalogue (TV series)
DVD box set cover
|Directed by||Krzysztof Kieślowski|
|Produced by||Ryszard Chutkowski|
|Written by||Krzysztof Kieślowski
|Music by||Zbigniew Preisner|
|Edited by||Ewa Smal|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. (Poland)|
|Budget||$100,000 (all parts)|
The Decalogue (Polish: Dekalog, pronounced [dɛˈkalɔk]) 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, inspired by the Ten Commandments. Each short film explores one or several moral or ethical issues faced by characters living in an austere apartment block in modern Poland.
The series is Kieślowski's most acclaimed work, has been said to be "the best dramatic work ever done specifically for television"  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 Krzysztof Piesiewicz, who had seen a 15th-century artwork illustrating the Commandments in scenes from that time period, suggested the idea of a modern equivalent. Krzysztof 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 of which used Piotr Sobociński as director of photography.
The ten films are titled simply by number (e.g. Decalogue: One). 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.
The themes of The Decalogue can be interpreted in many different ways; however, each film has its own literality:
|Commandment (Roman Catholic Enumeration)||Ideal||Kieślowskian Theme|
|I am the Lord thy God... thou shalt not have other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image... Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them.||The sanctity of God and worship||Idolization of science|
|Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.||The sanctity of speech||Names as fundamental to identify and moral choice; the importance of one's word in human life.|
|Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.||The sanctity of time||Time designations (holidays, day/night etc.) as repositories of meaning|
|Honor thy father and thy mother.||The sanctity of authority||Familial and social relationship as regulators of identity|
|Thou shalt not kill.||The sanctity of life||Murder and Punishment|
|Thou shalt not commit adultery.||The sanctity of love||The nature and relation of love and passion|
|Thou shalt not steal.||The sanctity of dominion||Possession as human need and temptation|
|Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.||The sanctity of truth||The difficulties of truth amid desperate evil|
|Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife.||The sanctity of contentment||Sex, jealousy, and faithfulness|
|Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods.||The sanctity of contentment||Greed and relationships|
|Decalogue I||Henryk Baranowski
|Decalogue II||Krystyna Janda
|Decalogue III||Daniel Olbrychski
|Decalogue IV||Adrianna Biedrzyńska
|Decalogue V||Mirosław Baka
|Decalogue VI||Olaf Lubaszenko
|Decalogue VII||Anna Polony
|Decalogue VIII||Teresa Marczewska
|Decalogue IX||Ewa Błaszczyk
|Decalogue X||Jerzy Stuhr
Recurring character of Artur Barciś
There is a nameless character, played by Polish actor Artur Barciś and possibly meant to be a supernatural figure, who observes the main characters at key moments but never intervenes (this character appears in all episodes except episodes 7 and 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||Does not appear (Barciś was meant to be a man at the railway station, but Kieślowski experienced technical difficulties including him in this episode)|
|Decalogue VIII||A student at the university|
|Decalogue IX||A man riding a bicycle|
|Decalogue X||Does not appear|
Milk is a symbolic element in some of the films.
|Episode||Occurrence of milk in The Decalogue|
|Decalogue I||The milk is sour.|
|Decalogue II||The doctor carries milk almost all the time.|
|Decalogue IV||Michał leaves the house to buy milk.|
|Decalogue VI||Tomek becomes a milkman. Magda spills milk on the table.|
|Decalogue VII||Ewa tries to breastfeed Ania without any milk. Wojtek tells Majka that Ania needs a home with milk.|
|Decalogue VIII||There is an unopened bottle of milk on the table while Zofia and Elżbieta are having dinner.|
|Decalogue IX||Roman is pouring milk while watching a child play.|
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.
In 2002, the film was also listed among the Top 100 "Essential Films" of all time by the National Society of Film Critics and ranked #36 in Empire magazine's "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema" in 2010.
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.
- "The Decalogue (1989) - Box office / business". Internet Movie Database. Amazon.com. 2000-11-27. Retrieved 2012-05-27.
- 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
- http://www.robertfulford.com/Decalogue.html Fulford, Robert - The National Post, 14 May 2002
- 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
- Film critic Robert Ebert's introduction info/review of the series on http://rogerebert.suntimes.com
- Kickasola, Joseph G. (2006). The Films of Krzysztof Kieślowski:The Liminal Image. Continuum (Bloomsbury Publishing). p. 164. ISBN 978-0-826-41559-2. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
- Stok, Danusia, ed. (1993). Kieślowski on Kieślowski. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 0-571-17328-4
- Critical response to the film on www.facets.org
- The Decalogue at Rotten Tomatoes
- 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
- Carr, Jay (2002). The A List: The National Society of Film Critics' 100 Essential Films. Da Capo Press. p. 81. ISBN 978-0-306-81096-1. Retrieved 27 July 2012.
- "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema | 36. The Decalogue". Empire.
- The Decalogue at the Internet Movie Database
- The Decalogue at Rotten Tomatoes
- 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 Filmography
- 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)