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DECALOGUE (3 & 4), THE (aka: DEKALOG) (aka: THE TEN COMMANDMENTS) (Polish TV) (director/writer: Krzysztof Kieslowski; screenwriter: Krzysztof Piesiewicz; editor: Ewa Smal; music: Zbigniew Preisner; Runtime: 560; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Ryszard Chutkowski; Facets; 1989-Poland-in Polish with English subtitles)
“Brilliant and moving, a masterpiece about the fragility of human nature.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski’s (“Blind Chance”/”A Short Film About Love”/”The Double Life of Veronique”) 10-hour Polish television serial based on The Ten Commandments. Kieslowski is cowriter with Krzysztof Piesiewicz. It’s brilliant and moving, a masterpiece about the fragility of human nature.

3-“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”

cinematographer: Piotr Sobocinski; Runtime: 56; cast: Maria Pakulnis (Ewa), Daniel Olbrychski (Janusz), Joanna Szczepkowska (Zona, wife of Janusz).

Christmas fills the bill for the Sabbath in this third installment of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s take on the Ten Commandments for Polish TV. It’s Christmas Eve in Warsaw and the family man, cabbie Janusz (Daniel Olbrychski),returns home dressed as Santa Claus. In a traditional celebration he gives presents to his two children and loving wife Zona (Joanna Szczepowska). He then attends alone the Midnight Mass and spots without meeting there his ex-mistress from three years ago Ewa (Maria Pakulnis). Back home he receives a call from Ewa to help her search the streets for her missing husband Edward Garus. Janusz lies to his wife by telling her about his taxi being stolen. For the rest of the night the anxiety-driven Ewa leads Janusz around a wild goose chase across town and under various pretexts keeps him with her until 7 a.m., supposedly so she wouldn’t be alone on Christmas Eve. The affair ended three years ago after Edward on a phone tip caught them in the act, but he left Ewa anyway after making her promise not to see her lover again and is now a family man living in Krakow.

Kieslowski shows that the festive and holy Christmas Eve could also be a cruel night for those who are lonely and despondent, and that despite the religious nature of the holiday there seems to be an absence of charity and reaching out to the unfortunate.

4-“Honor thy father and thy mother.”

cinematographer: Krysztof Pakulski; Runtime: 56; cast: Adrianna Biedrynska (Anka), Janusz Gajos (Michal), Artur Barcis (Jarek).

Anka (Adrianna Biedrynska) is a 20-year-old acting student raised by her kindly widowed architect father, Michal (Janusz Gajos), ever since her mom died when she was only 5 days old. When dad goes on one of his frequent business trips during the Easter holiday, he leaves behind in the open for the first time a sealed envelope marked “not to be opened before my death.” Three days later Anka opens it and it reveals that Michal is not her biological father. This causes a new twist in their close relationship. Even though she has a boyfriend, Jarek (Artur Barcis), she has always felt a desire for Michal and now finds out that he feels the same. The two must struggle to relate with each other in a new way after this startling revelation, as Kieslowski deftly deals with incestuous urges and all its implications.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”