Death from the very beginning — a rat decomposing in the water, a cat hanging from a railing as giggling children run off. In Krzysztof Kieslowski’s expansion of the Decalogue: Five segment (“Thou shalt not kill”), the commandment bounds individual and governmental killing into one object of anguished contemplation. Biblical intimations also figure in the bar exam summation (“Since Cain, no punishment has been capable of improving the world”) of apprentice attorney Krzysztof Globisz, one of the three Warsaw dwellers whose path ominously converge; the others are a 20-year-old drifter (Miroslaw Baka) and a jaundiced, middle-aged cabbie (Jan Tesarz). The obscured-vision effects of Slawomir Idziak’s dirty-sepia filters — characters encircled by soiling irises — suggest isolated realities clashing appallingly in the most excruciating murder since Torn Curtain’s farmhouse killing: a mid-ride throttling, Tesarz’s writhing foot emerging bare from shoe and sock, a heavy body dragged through an almost Tarkovskyan marsh before the final bludgeoning at Bakas hand’s. Continue reading
An obscured thief breaks into a school gymnasium at night to steal a portable telescope from the science lab. On the following morning, the thief, Tomek (Olaf Lubaszenko) sets up the telescope on his desk, facing the window of his room, and across the courtyard into an adjacent apartment. Later in the day, an attractive, hurried woman named Magda (Grazyna Szapolowska) stops by the post office in order to claim a money order after receiving a notification in her mailbox, only to be informed by the attentive young postal clerk, Tomek, that there is nothing being held at the station on her behalf. Back home, Tomek sets his alarm clock to 8:00 pm, the approximate time of Magda’s return home. Tomek would prepare his meals and dine in the privacy of his room, away from the curious gaze of his godmother (Stefania Iwinska), and spend hours observing Magda as she goes through the routine of her household tasks, often placing anonymous, silent telephone calls to hear the sound of her voice. Continue reading
The Ten Commandments, exact and uncompromising, literally cast in stone, continues to provide a source of moral conflict in contemporary society. In the ten part epic masterpiece, Decalogue, Krzysztof Kieslowski examines the dilemma of fundamental sin in the lives of ordinary Warsaw citizens. A scientist (Henryk Baranowski) puts his faith in science and logic to govern daily life (Decalogue I). A violinist (Krystyna Janda), unable to decide between her husband and her lover, defers the impossible decision to her husband’s attending physician (Aleksander Bardini) (Decalogue II). A lonely woman (Maria Pakulnis) imposes on an ex-lover (Daniel Olbrychski) on Christmas Eve to search for her missing lover (Decalogue III). An acting student (Adrianna Biedrzynska) discovers an ominous letter from her father (Janusz Gajos) (Decalogue IV). Continue reading
Dekalog was made for Polish TV as a series of ten films, each just under an hour in length, inspired by one of the Ten Commandments (the Decalogue), set in contemporary Warsaw in and around the same apartment block. Dekalog V and VI also exist in re-edited versions just under an hour and a half each for cinema release, under the titles A Short Film About Killing and A Short Film About Love respectively.
As well as being set in and around the same apartment block, the films are linked in other ways. Major characters in one part make walk-ons in another. An ethical dilemma mentioned by one of Zofia’s students in VIII is the very one that drives the plot of II. And in all but two of the films there appears a mysterious young man (Artur Barcis), who appears, looking on, at important moments. Continue reading
Based on the short story A Step Beyond the Gate / Krok za brame by Lech Borski).
A television feature that is considered to have been one of the pioneering films in the cinema of moral anxiety. The story of worker Antoni Gralak who is released from prison and wishes to settle down to a calm life. He fails to find peace though he does find a woman to marry and a place to live. The realities of the Polish People’s Republic cause him to enter into conflict with his construction worker colleagues who decide at one point to organise a strike, and with the manager of the construction site who wishes to make an informer of him. These complications conclude tragically. Premiered on television in 1980. @culture.pl
The concluding chapter in filmmaker Krzysztof Kieslowski’s “Three Colors” trilogy, Red stars the luminous Irène Jacob as Valentine, a young student and fashion model who befriends a bitter former judge (Jean-Louis Trintignant, his character a proxy for Kieslowski himself). Their accidental meeting is just one of the many chance encounters woven through the narrative fabric of this feature, the most accomplished effort in Kieslowski’s highly ambitious series. Like its predecessors, Red corresponds to a color of the French flag, as well as the color’s symbolic attributes. The subject here is fraternity, and indeed, its central characters are all closely connected, their destinies locked on a collision course. The film’s final scene even ties up the trilogy by bringing together the protagonists of the other features.
~ Jason Ankeny, All Movie Guide Continue reading
Review (Leo Goldsmith)
Films made under the state socialist regimes of Eastern Europe in the mid-twentieth century tend to fall roughly into two categories: the rigidly institutional and the scathingly anti-establishment. These films either serve to trumpet the cause of Communism or else find ways to avoid or subvert its conventions. The early films of Krzysztof Kieslowski present a slightly different alternative. On the one hand, these films duck the scrutiny of government censors with minute, incisive portraits of the system’s failings; but on the other, they tend to humanize and complicate the causes of these failings. Rather than make the system seem a corrupt, faceless entity, Kieslowski’s early films present a collection of individuals whose personal problems and shortcomings compose this system and thereby bring about its failure. Continue reading