Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Decalogue by Krzysztof Kieslowski: Who knows about this masterwork?

At somebody's suggestion, I got the celebrated Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski's 10 part Decalogue, a series of one hour dramas on each of the 10 Commandments. My first impressions? Riveting, profound, moral masterpieces. All the episodes take place in the city in Poland, largely in the barren, high rise, cement block apartment building where many of the characters live. It is a series about moral struggle and decisionmaking not by saints or devils but by the men and women you know.

Here's a synopsis of  Decalogue one, "I Am the Lord, Thy God; Thou Shalt Have No Other gods Before Me:"
"Krzysztof introduces his small son, Pawel, to the mysteries of the personal computer, a machine which he believes is infallible. It is winter. Pawel, anxious to try out his new pair of skates, asks his father if he can go out to the local pond which has just frozen over. They consult the computer; the ice will hold the boy's weight; he can go. Pawel doesn't come home. There was a freak local thaw; the computer was wrong; Pawel drowned. Krzysztof runs to the church in protest and despair, falls against an altar. Candle wax splashes over the face of the black Madonna and dries on her cheeks as tears."  During a conversation between the genius boy Pavel and his loving Catholic aunt he points to a picture of John Paul II and asks if he is a good man. She responds, "I think so."
Kieslowski's received 3 Academy Award nominations and has been feted for his work Three Colors (Blue, White, Red) which explores the virtues symbolized by the colors of the French flag. I know little about his faith commitments or worldview but he has certainly been shaped by a Catholic culture. Anyone who is familiar with him or the work, please comment.
I won't write anymore on this until I hear from someone else who has been initiated into these movies.  

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