Blu-ray 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)|
Dekalog (pronounced [dɛˈkalɔg], also known as Dekalog: The Ten Commandments and The Decalogue) is a 1988 Polish drama series of films directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski for television and co-written by Kieślowski with Krzysztof Piesiewicz, with music by Zbigniew Preisner. It consists of ten one-hour films, inspired by the decalogue of the Ten Commandments. 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 series, which is Kieślowski's most acclaimed work, was said in 2002 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. 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.
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.
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.
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. 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. The themes 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||Idolisation 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||Family 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|
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. He is possibly meant to be a supernatural figure.
|Episode||Character played by Artur Barciś|
|Dekalog: One||A homeless man sitting by a fire near the lake|
|Dekalog: Two||An 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 to include him in this episode)|
|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.|
|Dekalog: One||Henryk Baranowski
|Dekalog: Two||Krystyna Janda
|Dekalog: Three||Daniel Olbrychski
|Dekalog: Four||Adrianna Biedrzyńska
|Dekalog: Five||Mirosław Baka
|Dekalog: Six||Olaf Lubaszenko
|Dekalog: Seven||Anna Polony
|Dekalog: Eight||Teresa Marczewska
|Dekalog: Nine||Ewa Błaszczyk
|Dekalog: Ten||Jerzy Stuhr
Dekalog was assigned a rating of 97% at review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on 53 critic reviews, with an average rating of 8.95/10. The website's consensus reads, "With awe-inspiring ambition to match its powerful assemblage of acting talent, The Decalogue stands as a singular achievement in writer-director Krzysztof Kieslowski's filmography -- as well as the history of Polish cinema." It also received an average score of 100 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on 13 critic reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".
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. 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.
In January 2002, the film was 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.
According to online film resource They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?, Dekalog is the most acclaimed film of 1988.
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.
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Categories: 1988 films | Polish-language films | 1989 films | 1989 television films | 1988 drama films | Polish films | Polish television films | 1980s Polish television series | Existentialist works | Films directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski | Films with screenplays by Krzysztof Kieślowski | Films about Christianity | Films set in Warsaw | Films shot in Poland | Ten Commandments | Philosophical fiction | Films about Jews and Judaism | 1989 drama films