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DECALOGUE 7 & 8, 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.

7-“Thou shalt not steal.”

cinematographer: Dariusz Kuc; Runtime: 55; cast: Anna Polony (Ewa), Maja Barelkowska (Majka), Wladyslaw Kowalski (Stefan), Boguslaw Linda (Wojtek), Katarzyna Piwowarczyk (Ania).

When she was 16 Majka (Maja Barelkowska) gave birth to Ania (Katarzyna Piwowarczyk), as she was knocked-up by her young teacher Wojtek (Boguslaw Linda). To avoid a scandal and because Majka’s mother Ewa (Anna Polony) yearned for another child, as she was prevented from having more children after giving birth to Majka and thereby treated her coldly, all parties agreed that Ania was to be raised thinking Ewa was her mother and Majka her sister. The only love Majka receives is from her passive but kindly organ-pipe maker father (Wladyslaw Kowalski). Six years have passed and Majka wants her child back, and resents the child calling Ewa mummy. When Ewa resists, Majka kidnaps Ania and takes her to the cabin in the woods in Jozefow, where Wojtek resides as a teddy bear maker. Majka calls mom and tells her she will only return with the child if allowed to bring her up as her real mother.

Kieslowski turns it into an insightful examination of the difficulty of growing up and of being a parent, as he poses the trick question whether you can steal something that is already yours.

8-Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”

cinematographer: Andrzej Jaroszewicz; Runtime: 55; cast: Maria Koscialkowska (Zofia), Teresa Marczewska (Elzbieta Loranc), Tadeusz Lomnicki (Tailor), Artur Barcis (rubber man).

This schematic episode in the series raises the Jewishquestion of Polish guilt during WW II of sheltering Jews from the Gestapo. Elzbieta Loranc (Teresa Marczewska) is a New Yorker who was born in Poland and is renown as a researcher of the fate of the Jewish war survivors. She’s visiting Warsaw and allowed to sit in on the lecture of elderly ethics professor, Zofia (Maria Koscialkowska). During the class Elzbieta is allowed to tell a true personal story that took place in 1943 when she was a 6-year-old Jewish child in Warsaw and to survive the camps is offered sanctuary on the condition that she obtain a certificate of baptism. The nervous Catholic couple who have promised to help refuse on the dogmatic belief that they will not bear false witness. Thereby the child is condemned to almost certain death, but was fortunately taken in by others and raised by them until the war was over. Zofia was the wife of the couple who refused the girl sanctuary and invites Elzbieta home to explain why she did what she did. She says it was because her husband was a member of the Resistance and they had received false information that Elzbieta was part of a Gestapo plot to infiltrate the underground.

This was the least compelling story in the series, as explanations of what happened seem unclear even after explained (like we never clearly learn what the tailor’s part was in all this, as he refuses to talk about anything but making clothes). Nevertheless it does deal with the Polish sense of guilt for not doing enough during the German occupation to help the Jews and allows a Jewish survivor, adorned with a Catholic cross, a chance to see first-hand what courage it took to be protected from the Nazis.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”