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A Review of All Ten Episodes of Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Dekalog (1988)

Dekalog I 

“I am the Lord thy God. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” – The First Commandment

The absolute has always been dangerous ever since humankind first thought that they could somehow deduce it. Thousands of unexplainable coincidences and phenomenons occur every fleeting minute, and it really puts a pin in an individual’s determination of knowing certainty. This is why even till this day, I still ponder whether there really is a God. If He/She is genuinely among us, does He/She forgive or punish the ones that don’t follow Him/Her? It’s a terrifying rumination. 

Just seeing episode 1 of Dekalog and I’m already speechless. It’s exquisitely shot in every conceivable way and somehow mimics exactly the type of questions that I deteriorate myself with daily. 

Verdict: A+

 

Dekalog II

“Thou shall not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” – The Second Commandment

Ultimatums are what end up cutting us in the long run; forcing ourselves to commit two deeds depending on the outcome hinders us from paying attention to the stages that lead up. Preparation should make sense in that it gives you time to evaluate what is to possibly become, but maybe it should just be viewed as a precaution. We don’t want the unexpected to suddenly shatter our circumstances forever. 

I’ll admit, Dekalog II is mildly sluggish in a couple areas, but it’s combination of irony and karma makes it all intuitive by its conclusion. 

Verdict: B+

 

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Dekalog III

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” – The Third Commandment 

Every person, at least once, goes through a phase where they begin to treat their lives as if it’s a game. Sometimes, when it seems as if we’ve hit our extent of experience, we may urge, through our anxiety and depression, to test the playing field, discerning whether or not it still suits us. One’s existence: is it time to go or shall we continue to stay; will God choose for us or can it be at the fate of our own hands? 

Great episode. It’s incorporation of Christmas is essential, as well as its unanticipated action sequences. It’s a little predictable and a little familiar here and there in its commentary and big reveals—I could see where this was going halfway in—but suffice it to say, it was quite painless to connect with it.

Verdict: B

 

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Dekalog IV

“Honor thy father and mother.” – The Fourth Commandment

Are the ones we call companions chosen by chance or by destiny? Has a creator been pairing us up with those that match best all along, or is nature just as coincidental and mysterious as its own existence? Does it even matter if relationships are created out of the genuine or artificial nature? Perhaps, it’s about the flourish, the success of a partnership, not necessarily the circumstances that fabricated it in the first place. If anything, the plausible lies that some may employ to cover up the circumstances could very much damage more than the actual circumstances themselves—and at a permanent rate. 

This is basically the season three finale of Arrested Development (umm, shoutout to Lindsay…) but converted into a mature conversation pivoted on the inexplicable feeling that some may have (but aren’t supposed to have) for another who’s unconditionally tied to them. This is by far the most ambitious episode of Dekalog yet, and it’ll endlessly pay off for those who can respect an unconventional perspective (while maybe not necessarily supporting it) but probably infuriate the latter of viewers due to Kieślowski’s burdening edge. Regardless, this is uncut, top-tier commentary when it comes to boiling an audience up with conflicting yet intelligent cinema. 

Verdict: A

 

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Dekalog V

“Thou shalt not kill.” – The Fifth Commandment

Killing is an ugly act—legal or illegal. Whether or not there’s justification behind it, the committing of the severe affair hasn’t often proven to justify the committers in any manner. Murder is a contradicting cycle; one that is often used to rid society of possible crime, but also one that is likely to govern its accusers and witnesses negatively just as much as it will do to the accused on trial. Morality seems to always be ever so blurred in the conversation of violence.  

Three colors: orange, yellow, and green—literally. This is another exquisitely shot, colored, and lit episode that’s almost right up there with how Dekalog I was presented. It’s an hour-long detour that features some of the most stressful and devastating death sequences that I’ve seen in film media. The juxtaposition of events truly position matters into a sagacious perspective, treating killing as a practice that’ll cease to rightfully satisfy anybody even mildly involved with it—guilty or innocent.

Verdict: A

 

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Dekalog VI

“Thou shalt not commit adultery.” – The Sixth Commandment

Young love is such a sensitive conundrum. Now, I’m not really one to talk since I am still young, but from what I’ve observed of those around me, we can sometimes forget just how delicate people can take things during their youth—a time in our lives where we are still decoding new, eye-opening factors that life has to offer. I mean, hell, especially today we see younger people committing suicide at unspeakably high rates from a lack of accepting the cruel curves of our existence. It’s easy to let ourselves get satirically caught up in our own understanding of what may seem like a goofy situation that involves someone younger than us, yet, not evaluate maturely what is naturally spawning this situation in the first place, as if we have forgotten who we once were. 

A partially similar excavation as was Michael Haneke’s later release The Piano Teacher, Dekalog VI navigates the barrier between generations, and how non-proper handlings of fusing them (especially sexually) can lead to undesired turmoil, but, as a silver lining, character-growing turmoil at that. Exceptional performances; love the Alfred Hitchcock Rear Window influences too. This show is seriously on a roll.

Verdict: A

 

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Dekalog VII

“Thou shalt not steal.” – The Seventh Commandment

When one has stolen something considered precious to another and kept it for a substantial time, it may be quite possible that you’ve robbed it from whomever owned it first forever. We often attach ourselves to the entities that we consider essentials to our very own individuality, and once somebody ruptures that person’s attachment to an entity by snatching the physicality of it, the authenticity of that attachment can be dismantled with it, as well as that of the steeler who may have hoped to gain their own form of attachment. What’s really not yours, will never truly be yours, and whatever truly is yours, we must remember, can still be changed and manipulated by any perpetrator.

This is a pretty straightforward episode; one with the classic “psycho mom who chooses favorites” type character that would make most of us think, “phew, at least she’s not my parent!” I wasn’t too provoked by the conclusions or execution that were designated to diagram the arcs of these individuals, but once more, Kielśowski’s theoretical content and philosophy always seems to overrule the ordinary.

Verdict: B

 

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Dekalog VIII

“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” – The Eight Commandment

Lying is a tricky one. If there is a God, could he excuse lying depending on the circumstances? What if somebody’s life was at risk? Then is it okay? Or, has God already planned the cards out, and this person will remain to be safe no matter what the situation may look like—as long as you remain under the header of truth. Okay, so then why do we feel guilt when we tell the truth sometimes? Why do we persevere to the regulations of honesty if we sometimes know that it’ll lead to a wrong? That can’t be right. Why are these unbearably strong feelings programmed into us? Could a truth really sometimes make us wish it, decades later, to have been a lie? 

Yeah, yeah, there’s a pretty respectable class lecture sequence in this episode that initiates the main premise through some inquisitive exposition, yet this is easily my least favorite of the batch thus far. This happens to be the dullest looking and shot entry of the Dekalog yet—its locations, camera movements, lighting/coloring are used pretty limitedly compared to other episodes. The potential that this episode sets up in its premise, furthermore, just seems to be eliminated for a very basic and tame examination/understanding of two people who once knew each other long ago. After that class-lecture scene, the execution never seems to be navigated that passionately, aside from a brilliant scene that takes place in an old apartment and an admittedly respectable concluding sequence. 

However, I’d digress that episode eight is still quite decent as a whole. The guilt yet sincerity that is set upon these characters after a secret and long-deserved gathering is finally unraveled is effective enough to leave viewers pondering their own intrinsic decisions that they may have disbenefited others with in the past and whether or not those deeds had rewritten the course of their lives for good. The atrocities of the Holocaust being woven into this narrative gains angles when relating this all back to our own reality, as well. 

Verdict: B-

 

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Dekalog IX

“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife.” – The Ninth Commandment

“Once a cheater, always a cheater” is quite the close-minded phrase, however, it makes plenty of sense that we would be naive enough to believe it. The act of cheating can transpire as such a detrimental and lethal toll for the victim of its situation, so it does seem natural that it would incline one to view matters in a light worth demeaning a partner in which they once trusted. The alteration of our mental health can sometimes be a slamming wager, and it may lead us on a rocky, paranoid pathway with trusting even the ones we love—especially when we’ve accepted betrayal as an only reason behind the madness. 

Dekalog IX is essentially the textbook tale of “misinformation leading to unnecessary troubles” that’s executed in quite the genuine fashion, howbeit. I appreciated this episode’s innuendos, as well; very resourceful of you Kieślowski. 

Verdict: B

 

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Dekalog X

“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods.” – The Tenth Commandment

What would you be willing to give up for money? Who would you be willing to betray for money? In truth, it takes an experience to determine whether or not your greed really is powerful enough to expel not only the ones closest to you, but the pieces of you that make you, you. Wealth is a subjective force that is, unfortunately, too muddled with just being related to dollar signs. It’ll take something catastrophic to finally acknowledge that fortune is a mixture of what we already have and what we desire, yet we need not both. 

Distinct characters, contemplative turning points, and a clever exercise of a magnificent premise, while the final episode of Dekalog’s themes are as expected with these archetypal tales of greed as they come, the absorbing plights of its narrative and presentation are enough to make any viewer want to stroll down this moral route once more. 

Verdict: A-

The Many Shades of Krzysztof Kieślowski (Ranked List) 

“Dekalog” is now available to purchase from The Criterion Collection.

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