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Blu-ray box set cover
Directed byKrzysztof Kieślowski
Written by
Produced byRyszard Chutkowski
StarringArtur Barciś
see below
Edited byEwa Smal
Music byZbigniew Preisner
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release dates
  • 16 May 1989 (1989-05-16) (Cannes)
  • 10 December 1989 (1989-12-10)
Running time
572 minutes
Budget$100,000 (all parts)[citation needed]
Box office$447,093[1]

Dekalog (pronounced [dɛˈkalɔg], also known as Dekalog: The Ten Commandments and The Decalogue) is a 1989 Polish drama television miniseries directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski[2] and co-written by Kieślowski with Krzysztof Piesiewicz, with music by Zbigniew Preisner.[3] It consists of ten one-hour films, inspired by the decalogue of the Ten Commandments.[4] Each short film explores characters facing one or several moral or ethical dilemmas as they live in an austere housing project in 1980s Poland. The entire series was exhibited at the 46th Venice International Film Festival.

The series, Kieślowski's most acclaimed work,[5] was said in 2002 to be "the best dramatic work ever done specifically for television"[6] and has won numerous international awards, though it was not widely released outside Europe until the late 1990s.[7] It is one of fifteen films listed in the category "Values" on the Vatican film list. In 1991, filmmaker Stanley Kubrick wrote an admiring foreword to the published screenplay.[8] According to him, Dekalog is the only masterpiece he could ever think of.[9]


The series was conceived when screenwriter 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. Filmmaker 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. He used a different cinematographer for each episode except III and IX, in both of which Piotr Sobociński was director of photography.[10]

The large cast includes both famous and unknown actors, 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 is a black comedy, featuring two of the same actors, Jerzy Stuhr and Zbigniew Zamachowski, as in Three Colors: White.[citation needed]


The ten films are titled simply by number, e.g. Dekalog: One. According to film critic 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.[11] Though each film is independent, most of them share the same setting in Warsaw, and some of the characters are acquainted with each other. Each short film explores characters facing one or several moral or ethical dilemmas as they live in a large housing project in 1980s Poland.[3] The themes can be interpreted in many different ways; however, each film has its own literality:[12]

Commandment (Roman Catholic Enumeration) Ideal Kieślowskian Theme
1. 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 Idolisation of science
2. 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.
3. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. The sanctity of time Time designations (holidays, day/night etc.) as repositories of meaning
4. Honor thy father and thy mother. The sanctity of authority Family and social relationship as regulators of identity
5. Thou shalt not kill. The sanctity of life Murder and punishment
6. Thou shalt not commit adultery. The sanctity of love The nature and relation of love and passion
7. Thou shalt not steal. The sanctity of dominion Possession as human need and temptation
8. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. The sanctity of truth The difficulties of truth amid desperate evil
9. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife. The sanctity of emotional contentment Sex, jealousy, and faithfulness
10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods. The sanctity of material contentment Greed and relationships

Recurring character of Artur Barciś[edit]

A nameless character played by Polish actor Artur Barciś appears in all but episodes 7 and 10. He observes the main characters at key moments, and never intervenes.

Episode Character played by Artur Barciś
Dekalog: One A homeless man sitting by a fire near the lake
Dekalog: Two A laboratory assistant/orderly in the hospital
Dekalog: Three A tram driver
Dekalog: Four A man rowing a boat and later seen carrying the boat
Dekalog: Five A construction worker holding a measuring pole and then as a different construction worker carrying a ladder
Dekalog: Six A man carrying bags of groceries
Dekalog: Seven Does not appear (Barciś was meant to be a man at the railway station, but Kieślowski experienced technical difficulties preventing the character's inclusion in this episode)[13][14]
Dekalog: Eight A student at the university
Dekalog: Nine A man riding a bicycle
Dekalog: Ten Does not appear


Milk is a recurring element in the following 7 episodes:

Episode Occurrence of milk in The Decalogue
Dekalog: One The milk is sour.
Dekalog: Two The doctor goes to buy milk.
Dekalog: Four Michał leaves the house to buy milk.
Dekalog: Six Tomek becomes a milkman. Magda spills milk on the table.
Dekalog: Seven Ewa tries to breastfeed Ania without any milk. Wojtek tells Majka that Ania needs a home with milk.
Dekalog: Eight There is an unopened bottle of milk on the table while Zofia and Elżbieta are having dinner.
Dekalog: Nine Roman is pouring milk while watching a child play.

Cast and cinematography by episode[edit]

Episode Cast Cinematography
Dekalog: One Henryk Baranowski
Wojciech Klata
Maja Komorowska
Wiesław Zdort
Dekalog: Two Krystyna Janda
Aleksander Bardini
Olgierd Łukaszewicz
Edward Klosiński
Dekalog: Three Daniel Olbrychski
Maria Pakulnis
Joanna Szczepkowska
Piotr Sobociński
Dekalog: Four Adrianna Biedrzyńska
Janusz Gajos
Adam Hanuszkiewicz
Krzysztof Pakulski
Dekalog: Five Mirosław Baka
Jan Tesarz
Krzysztof Globisz
Sławomir Idziak
Dekalog: Six Olaf Lubaszenko
Grażyna Szapołowska
Stefania Iwińska
Witold Adamek
Dekalog: Seven Anna Polony
Maja Barełkowska
Bogusław Linda
Dariusz Kuc
Dekalog: Eight Teresa Marczewska
Maria Kościałkowska
Bronisław Pawlik
Andrzej Jaroszewicz
Dekalog: Nine Ewa Błaszczyk
Piotr Machalica
Jan Jankowski
Piotr Sobociński
Dekalog: Ten Jerzy Stuhr
Zbigniew Zamachowski
Henryk Bista
Jacek Bławut


Dekalog was assigned a rating of 100% at review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on 40 critic reviews, with an average rating of 9.6/10. The website's consensus reads, "With The Decalogue, Krzysztof Kieślowski draws on the Ten Commandments to deliver an epic feat of parable storytelling."[15] It also received an average score of 100 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on 13 critic reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[16] It won the 1991 BAFTA TV Award for Best International Programme[17] and the Bodil Award for Best European Film.[18] The film also won the Best Foreign Film award from French Syndicate of Cinema Critics.[19]

The series was praised by renowned film critics including Roger Ebert[11] and Robert Fulford,[6] as well as important figures from the film industry, such as Stanley Kubrick.[7]

In the 2002 Sight & Sound poll to determine the greatest films of all time, Dekalog 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.[20] 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 Dekalog, Three Colors Red/Blue, and The Double Life of Veronique.[21] In the 2012 polls Dekalog received six votes from critics including Kenneth Turan and one vote from director Milcho Manchevski as the Greatest Film of All Time.[22]

The Village Voice ranked The Decalogue at No. 112 in its Top 250 "Best Films of the Century" list in 1999, based on a poll of critics.[23] In January 2002, the film was listed among the Top 100 "Essential Films" of all time by the National Society of Film Critics.[24] The film ranked #36 in Empire magazine's "The 100 Best Films of World Cinema" in 2010.[25]

According to online film resource They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?, Dekalog is the 2nd most acclaimed film of 1989.[26]

Longer feature films[edit]

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.[citation needed] In 2000, the series was released on five DVDs, each containing two parts of about 2 hours.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Dekalog (1989) – Box office / business". IMDb. 27 November 2000. Retrieved 27 May 2012.
  2. ^ "Biography of Krysztof Kieślowski". Facets. Archived from the original on 24 July 2010. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
  3. ^ a b Tanzer, Joshua (20 January 2001). "A perfect 10 - film review THE DECALOGUE (Dekalog 1 through Dekalog 10)". Offoffoff. Archived from the original on 27 December 2009. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
  4. ^ "Dekalog: The Ten Commandments". Close-Up Film Centre. Retrieved 21 October 2020.
  5. ^ "Krzysztof Kieślowski's Acclaimed Films". They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?. Archived from the original on 11 April 2020. Retrieved 30 December 2016.
  6. ^ a b Fulford, Robert (14 May 2002). "Kieslowski's magnificent Decalogue". Retrieved 21 October 2020 – via The National Post.
  7. ^ a b "The Critics on The Decalogue". Facets. Archived from the original on 24 July 2010. Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  8. ^ Kieślowski, Krzysztof; Piesiewicz, Krzysztof; Kubrick, Stanley (January 1991). Kubrick on Kieslowski. London. ISBN 978-0571144983. Retrieved 21 October 2020 – via Faber & Faber. {{cite book}}: |website= ignored (help)CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  9. ^ "Why The Decalogue Still Matters After Twenty Years". HuffPost. 23 June 2008. Archived from the original on 26 December 2021. Retrieved 26 December 2021.
  10. ^ "Behind the Camera: Poland's Best Cinematographers". Facets. Archived from the original on 25 July 2010. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
  11. ^ a b Ebert, Roger (2 April 2000). "The Decalogue movie review & film summary (1988)". Archived from the original on 4 February 2013. Retrieved 20 October 2020.
  12. ^ Kickasola, Joseph G. (2006). The Films of Krzysztof Kieślowski:The Liminal Image. Continuum (Bloomsbury Publishing). p. 164. ISBN 978-0-826-41559-2.
  13. ^ Stok, Danusia, ed. (1993). Kieślowski on Kieślowski. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 0-571-17328-4
  14. ^ Dekalog is available on DVD and Blu-ray disks; these boxed sets are produced by TVP, Television Poland. The film images have been digitally reconstructed and the sound remastered. According to the table, the nameless character does not appear in Dekalog Seven. However, the DVD box set shows a man on crutches getting off the train, and includes Artur Barciś in the credits at the end. So there must be two different versions of Dekalog, the original and the digitised.
  15. ^ "The Decalogue". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 17 June 2023.
  16. ^ "Dekalog (1988)". Metacritic. Retrieved 20 October 2020.
  17. ^ "Television in 1991".
  18. ^ "1991". Bodilprisen (in Danish). 19 October 2015. Retrieved 29 June 2021.
  19. ^ "SFCC Critics' Award 1990". Syndicate de la Critique.
  20. ^ "The 100 Greatest Films of All Time". British Film Institute. Archived from the original on 2 September 2012. Retrieved 21 October 2020.
  21. ^ "Modern Times - UK Critics' Top Ten Poll". British Film Institute. December 2002. Archived from the original on 7 March 2012. Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  22. ^ "votes for Dekalog". bfi. Archived from the original on 1 April 2017.
  23. ^ "Take One: The First Annual Village Voice Film Critics' Poll". The Village Voice. 1999. Archived from the original on 26 August 2007. Retrieved 27 July 2006.
  24. ^ 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.
  25. ^ "The 100 Best Films of World Cinema | 36. Dekalog". Empire. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015.
  26. ^ "The 1,000 Greatest Films (Full List)". They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?.

External links[edit]