Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Decalogue by Krzysztof Kieslowski

The Decalogue is a late 80s Polish miniseries loosely based on the Ten Commandments. Although the writer/director I believe is agnostic, none-the-less he wanted to challenge himself and his ideas on these spiritual beliefs. He made ten compelling one-hour episodes. Two of them, as per contractual obligation, were made into feature films titled "A Short Film About Killing" and "A Short Film About Love."

It's an interesting concept as well because all of the main characters live in the same apartment complex, and in several episodes their lives intersect in causal ways. There's even one character in all of them who appears in various locations as a sort of holy figure or a nod to the conscience of the protagonist.

A Short Film About Killing

The Polish architecture and landscape in all its cold, dreary desolation is oddly reminiscent of something you'd find at Chernobyl. Perhaps not odd, as the reactor is a less than 10 hour drive from Warsaw, where the movies were written and filmed.

Amidst this most cold of a Midwestern, polar vortex winter, it seems appropriate to revisit this classik set of pictures, as a lot of them exist in that realm of the cold of Poland, and the correlating emotionally disaffected behavior. What sells the stories is the directors keen sense to visually portray dramatic feelings instead of just stating them. Hey man that's not only my opinion, it was influenced by a great director's foreword to the published scripts:
"I am always reluctant to single out some particular feature of the work of a major filmmaker because it tends inevitably to simplify and reduce the work. But in this book of screenplays by Krzysztof Kieslowski and his co-author, Krzysztof Piesiewicz, it should not be out of place to observe that they have the very rare ability to dramatize their ideas rather than just talking about them.
By making their points through the dramatic action of the story they gain the added power of allowing the audience to discover what's really going on rather than being told. They do this with such dazzling skill, you never see the ideas coming and don't realize until much later how profoundly they have reached your heart."
 - Stanley Kubrick
Hey look, a smart guy liked it, it must be good.

The Watcher in DEKALOG I

So I guess what I'm saying is that it's worth a watch if you like melancholic lovingly-framed portraits of disaffected people in emotional and social quandaries. Y'know? Some of the creative ideas for expressing his points really get to you. Like any good medicine, it's most accessible when it's coated so well you can't taste it. Basically Kieslowski creates the Flintstone vitamins of movies. Criterion Collection, feel free to quote that on future releases.

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