Dekalog Screen 15 articles

Dekalog

1988

Dekalog Poster
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    The Village Voice: Georgia Brown
    November 06, 1990 | The Village Voice Film Guide (pp. 90-92)

    This tough-minded work—one of the few masterpieces of recent time—consists of ten hour-long dramas... The Decalogue might be called a philosopher's soap opera or an immensely entertaining grammar of morals.

  • All of the films in The Decalogue are easy and pleasurable to follow as stories, yet part of the excitement they generate stems from discussions about their meaning after their dramatic impact registers.

  • Kieslowski has modernized the 10 Commandments with the kind of ponderous, haunting, funny, lucid vision that makes no claims to grandiosity, epic spectacle or May sweeps stunt-casting. We got "Rich Man, Poor Man." Goran in Krakow got this enthralling masterwork, the beauty and palpable humanity of which lingers in the soul for longer than the drive home.

  • The Decalogue was the last film that Krzysztof Kieslowski would set entirely in his native Poland and, less flashy in its metaphysics than his subsequent French co-pros, it remains his masterpiece—a sardonic riff on the foundation laws that govern the Judeo-Christian cosmos... As the episodes echo each other in unexpected ways, so each provides a complex ethical conundrum.

  • The issues of abortion and capital punishment come up in two separate stories, but there are ironic twists in both. Indeed, the complete absence of sentimentality in Decalogue is amazing when one contemplates the depths of the emotions explored.

  • It's been talked about in hushed tones ever since, yet its reputation is deceptive: not because the film doesn't deserve to be confettied with superlatives, but because the word "masterpiece" can sound as impenetrable and monolithic as the Commandments themselves. On the contrary, The Decalogue finds Kieslowski and co-scenarist Krzysztof Piesiewicz turning a delicate cycle of intimate, funny, heartbreaking, and compassionate works into a symphony of human fallibility.

  • Defined as Kieslowski's experimental, transitional work for Polish television, Decalogue is, in itself, a monumental achievement: a remarkable examination of moral tale colliding, and often yielding, against the bounds of human frailty. Kieslowski crafts each episode with a distinctive signature, creating serenely indelible, spare, and poetic imagery.

  • Here was one of the most sublime mega-films of the late 20th century — all 10 parts and 562 minutes of it. The life-summarizing work feels all the more so considering how director Krsysztof Kieslowski’s career had been cut short by his unexpected death in 1996.

  • The Dekalog's episodes are uniquely aestheticized, befitting their own distinct thematic fixations; Kieślowski even went so far as to employ a different director of cinematography for almost every episode. One of the all-time great wielders of color, the filmmaker uses subtle color tints to evoke specific moods.

  • It certainly lives up to its reputation as a mind-altering masterpiece. You marvel at the precision of its filmmaking even as it spreads an atmosphere of moral unease.

  • The result ranks among the greatest achievements in television history—but it also produced two feature films, expanded from two of the episodes... Truly, Dekalog is a single grand entity, greater than the sum of its sometimes stupendous parts. Think of it as the televisual and/or cinematic equivalent of Joyce’s Dubliners, providing a monumental, probing yet playful snapshot of Warsaw in the late 1980s. Then hunker down and burrow in.

  • In the Dekalog, Kieślowski strips his native being down to a universal visual language, and with the help of collaboration from his peers, unpacks the plethora of complexities hidden beneath and within all that is human in this ferocious masterpiece. In short, ditch formula and equation, and just rip through to the meat no matter the means.

  • They're Polish Catholics, and though not all are believers, a God-like or Christ-like figure hovers over their transgressions in various guises, looking worried. Perpetually confounded, these ordinary folk inhabit a film masterpiece of urgent philosophical inquiry that asks the eternal question, How shall we live? And as every storyteller knows, we are never messier, funnier or more poignant than when we are trying to be good.

  • The documentarian in spirit is well aware that reality is no story with beginning, middle, and end (even as reworked in Jean-Luc Godard’s “not necessarily in that order”). The characters’ partial recurrence in other films in Dekalog episodes and the forging of alternate versions are just two examples of the haunting at the heart of Kieślowski’s art.

  • Ultimately, a somewhat didactic conservative message is overshadowed out by Kieślowski’s audacious, lyrical, and ultimately humanist approach. Each episode of Dekalog deals in some form with mortality, and Krsyzstof’s confrontation with the inevitability of death leads to one of Kieślowski’s most beautiful sequences...

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