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Krzysztof Kieslowski


The Decalogue / Dekalog
1988, premiere: Dec. 10, 1989, a series of 10 TV films, each one based on one of the Ten Commandments
Color
Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski
Screenplay: Krzysztof Piesiewicz, Krzysztof Kieslowski
Art Director: Halina Dobrowolska
Music: Zbigniew Preisner
Production Company: Polish Television, „Tor” Film Studio, Warsaw, Poland, Sender Freies (West Berlin)















Though consisting of ten parts, “The Decalogue” is not a television series in the familiar sense. There is no ongoing plot and the characters are different, with the exception of one mysterious, unidentified figure who appears in every part (played by Artur Barcis). What all episodes do have in common is the setting – a huge, impersonal housing project. Overwhelming size, uniform buildings, and the cramped apartments in which both smaller and larger human dramas must play out. Although the individual stories are inspired by the Ten Commandments, it is important to emphasize that Kieslowski and his co-scriptwriter Krzysztof Piesiewicz have made them accessible to every viewer regardless of worldview or religious belief. Bare-bones descriptions of their respective plots may make them sound like single threads from the interwoven story-lines of an average soap opera. But Kieslowski is not offering dramatized gossip; rather, he confronts us with the depths of moral ambiguity that haunt us all. The ten parts of “The Decalogue”, like all of Kieslowski’s later films, are distinguished by the artistry of the dialogue, performances, cinematography, and musical scoring.

Awards:
1989 Krzysztof Kieslowski: Venice (International Film Festival) – FIPRESCI Award
1989 Krzysztof Kieslowski: Venice (International Film Festival) – "Young Cinema" Award
1989 Krzysztof Kieslowski: Montreal (World Film Festival) – Critics Award
1989 Krzysztof Kieslowski: Sao Paulo (International Film Festival) – Film Critics Award
1989 Krzysztof Kieslowski: San Sebastian (International Film Festival) – OCIC Award (International Catholic Film Organization
1989 Krzysztof Kieslowski: Dunkirk (International Films Meeting) – Critics Award
1990 Krzysztof Kieslowski: Silver Reel (Association of Italian Film Critique) – Best Foreign Film Presented in Italy
1990 Krzysztof Kieslowski: “Golden Screen” (from "Ekran" (Screen) magazine) - Best Director of 1989
2000 Krzysztof Kieslowski: Special Award of the US National Society of Film Critics (NSFC) for outstanding achievements in foreign film


I Am The Lord Thy God (Decalogue 1) / Dekalog, 1
1988,  Poland, TV film
35 mm, color, 53 min
Director:
Krzysztof Kieslowski
Screenplay:
Krzysztof Piesiewicz, Krzysztof Kieslowski
Cinematography:
Wieslaw Zdort
Art Director:
Halina Dobrowolska
Music:
Zbigniew Preisner; Performed by: Lodz Philharmonic Orchestra; Conductor: Zdzislaw Szostak
Production Company:
Polish Television
Cast:
Henryk Baranowski (Krzysztof), Wojciech Klata (Pawel), Maja Komorowska (Irena), Artur Barcis (Man in the sheepskin), and others.




















In taking the First Commandment as their starting point, Kieslowski and Piesiewicz address the question of God’s very existence and contemporary man’s creation of false idols. Krzysztof, a scientist, introduces his beloved little son, Pawel, to the mysteries of the personal computer, a machine which he believes to be infallible. It is not by accident that Kieslowski and Piesiewicz  have made the computer an idol – avoiding a literally Biblical interpretation of God’s commandment.  It is winter, and Pawel, anxious to try out a new pair of skates, asks his father if he can go out to the local pond which has just frozen over. They consult the computer and determine with great precision and with more than a safe margin of error that the ice will hold the boy's weight. But an unpredictable convergence of meteorological factors is about to threaten the scientist’s faith  – and more.

Thou Shalt Not Take the Name of Thy Lord God in Vain (Decalogue 2) / Dekalog 2
1988,  Poland, TV film
35 mm, color, 57 min
Director:
Krzysztof Kieslowski
Screenplay:
Krzysztof Piesiewicz, Krzysztof Kieslowski
Cinematography and Camera Operator:
Edward Klosinski
Art Director:
Halina Dobrowolska
Music:
Zbigniew Preisner; Performed by: Lodz Philharmonic Orchestra, piano: Bozena Banaszkiewicz; Conductor: Zdzislaw Szostak
Production Company:
Polish Television
Cast: 
Krystyna Janda (Dorota), Aleksander Bardini (Doctor), Olgierd Lukaszewicz (Andrzej), Artur Barcis (Young Man), and others.
 




















The head of an intensive care unit is a lonely, older man who enjoyes a stable life and the faded memories of his youth. The tranquility of his life is abruptly shaken when the fate of an unborn child is unexpectedly placed in his hands. The expectant mother (Krystyna Janda) is a young violinist whose husband is in critical condition in that very ward. But the child was fathered by another. The violinist has calculated that if her husband lives, she will have an abortion. If he dies, she will have the baby and join its father. What she needs is a clear-cut prognosis. She demands one of the doctor, but her capacity for cold calculation in the most dramatic of circumstances fills him with revulsion, as does the realization that on his prognosis hangs the life of the child. The expectant violinist is not above using God’s name to extract a sworn statement. But the doctor is not above lying to save a life. And Part Two ends on a note of perfect moral ambiguity.

Honor the Sabbath Day (Decalogue 3) / Dekalog 3
1988, Poland, TV film
35 mm, color, 56 min
Director:
Krzysztof Kieslowski
Screenplay:
Krzysztof Piesiewicz, Krzysztof Kieslowski
Cinematography: Piotr Sobocinski
Art Director:
Halina Dobrowolska
Music:
Zbigniew Preisner; Performed by: Lodz Philharmonic Orchestra; Conductor: Zdzislaw Szostak
Production Company:
Polish Television
Cast:
Daniel Olbrychski (Janusz), Maria Pakulnis (Ewa), Joanna Szczepkowska (Janusz's wife), Artur Barcis (Tram-driver), Krystyna Drochocka (Aunt), and others.
 

















Daniel Olbrychski plays Janusz, a young man who lives with his family. It is Christmas Eve, a night when families are together and nobody wants to be alone. Janusz’s family maintain the superficial formalities of piety, which results in empty rituals on Holy Night, and may account in part for a streak of insincerity and hypocrisy in Janusz. It should be no surprise that Part Three is about much more than dishonoring the Sabbath. Janusz’s ex-lover, the determined Ewa, spoils this Christmas Eve by craftily luring Janusz from the apartment and his family and to wander with her through the city, and with various excuses tries to keep him with her for the night. Their break-up, it had always seemed to Janusz, had been by mutual consent: Ewa had agreed to his returning to his family. But now it seems that her agreement had been a pose forced by circumstances. In fact impetuous and downright predatory, she now tries to revive their relationship. Janusz wants to go home but Ewa is adamant. They part at dawn. One critic observed that Kieslowski presents “the madness of love in its most onerous phase, when it has lost almost all its positive features and, intense as ever, is transformed into a destructive force.”

Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother (Decalogue 4) / Dekalog 4
1988, Poland, TV film
35 mm,color, 55 min
Director:
Krzysztof Kieslowski
Screenplay:
Krzysztof Piesiewicz, Krzysztof Kieslowski
Cinematography:
Krzysztof Pakulski
Art Director:
Halina Dobrowolska
Music:
Zbigniew Preisner; Performed by: Lodz Philharmonic Orchestra; Conductor: Zdzislaw Szostak
Production Company:
Polish Television
Cast:
Adrianna Biedrzynska (Anka), Janusz Gajos (Michal), Artur Barcis (Young Man),Aleksander Bardini (Doctor), Adam Hanuszkiewicz (Professor), Jan Tesarz (Taxi driver),and others.
 




















In his approach to the Fourth Commandment – the first of the seven dealing with human relations – Kieslowski focuses on the taboo against incest. A subtext of potential incest underlies the delicate play of feelings and emotions that unfold between Anka and her father, with whom she has been living since her mother died when Anka was 10. While he is away on a business trip she finds a letter written by her mother on her deathbed and addressed to Anka, claiming that her husband was not the girl’s real father. There may be reason to doubt that, but Anka believes it, and accuses her alleged father of deception. The family tie that bound father and daughter now seems suspended. A different relationship emerges between Anka and Michal as Anka subtly tries to seduce him.

Critics have agreed that “Decalogue 4” is one of the most remarkable of the whole series, praising the director, set design, and cinematography, but most of all the actors: Adrianna Biedrzynska and Janusz Gajos, who created characters of extremely different temperaments, inwardly rich and complex.

Thou Shalt Not Kill (Decalogue 5) / Dekalog 5
1988, Television version of A Short Film About Killing
35mm color, 57min
Director:
Krzysztof Kieslowski
Screenplay:
Krzysztof Kieslowski, Krzysztof Piesiewicz
Cinematography & Camera Operator:
Slawomir ldziak
Art Director:
Halina Dobrowolska
Music:
Zbigniew Preisner
Music performed by:
The Great Orchestra of Polish Radio and TV (Katowice)
Conductor:
Zdzislaw Szostak
Song: „Opowiem ci o lwie”, music: W. Korcz, words: W. Chotomska, performed by Scouts’ group Gaweda
Exteriors: Warszawa (Old Town, Krakowskie Przedmiescie Street), Siedlce prison
Production Company: Polish Television
Cast: Miroslaw Baka (Jacek), Krzysztof Globisz (Piotr), Jan Tesarz (Taxi driver), Zbigniew Zapasiewicz (Police Inspector), Barbara Dziekan-Wajda (Cashier), Aleksander Bednarz, Elzbieta Helman, Jerzy Zass, Zdzislaw Tobiasz, Artur Barcis, Krystyna Janda, Olgierd Lukaszewicz, and others
 
























SEE THE DESCRIPTION FOR „A SHORT FILM ABOUT KILLING”; “Decalogue 5” is a faithful but more concise version

Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery (Decalogue 6) / Dekalog 6
1988 Television version of A Short Film About Love
35 mm color, 58 min
Director:
Krzysztof Kieslowski
Screenplay:
Krzysztof Kieslowski, Krzysztof Piesiewicz
Cinematography & Camera Operator:
Witold Adamek
Art Director:
Halina Dobrowolska
Music:
Zbigniew Preisner;  Performed by: Orchestra of Polish Radio and TV (Krakow); Conductor:  Zbigniew Preisner
Song: „Miss pieknosci 86”, music:
A. Maliszewski, words: W. Kujbida, performed by Alex Band
Production Company:
Polish Television
Cast:
Grazyna Szapolowska (Magda), Olaf Lubaszenko (Tomek), Stefania Iwinska (Godmother), Artur Barcis (Young Man), Stanislaw Gawlik (Postman), Piotr Machalica (Roman), Rafal Imbro (Magda’s Lover), Jan Piechocinski (Magda’s Lover), and others.
 





















SEE THE DESCRIPTION FOR „A SHORT FILM ABOUT LOVE”; “Decalogue 6” is a faithful but more concise version

Thou Shalt Not Steal (Decalogue 7) / Dekalog 7
1988,  Poland, TV film
35 mm, color, 55 min
Director:
Krzysztof Kieslowski
Screenplay:
Krzysztof Piesiewicz, Krzysztof Kieslowski
Cinematography & Camera Operator:
Dariusz Kuc
Art Director:
Halina Dobrowolska
Music:
Zbigniew Preisner; Performed by: Lodz Philharmony Orchestra; Conductor: Zdzislaw Szostak
Production Company:
Polish Television
Theatre performance: “About a Dread Dragon”
based on M. Kownacka, directed & choreography by E. Dobraczynski, art director: A. Kilian, music: B. Pasternak, performed by Lalka Theatre in Warsaw
Cast:
Anna Polony (Ewa), Maja Barelkowska (Magda), WIadyslaw Kowalski (Stefan), Boguslaw Linda (Wojtek), Artur Barcis (a man at the railway station), Bozena Dykiel (box-office woman), Katarzyna Piwowarczyk (Ania), and others.

 




















"Can you steal your own property?" – asks Kieslowski’s protagonist, raising a difficult ethical question. It is even more complicated, since we know that the “property” is a child, an object of contention between mother and grandmother. Majka abducts her six-year-old sister, Ania, and heads off to the woods; gradually Kieslowski reveals the true emotional dimensions of the kidnapping, as Majka, Ania, and their parents struggle with conforming the way things are with the way they want them to be.   As a young schoolgirl, Ewa’s daughter Majka had a baby fathered by a schoolteacher. To avoid scandal and provide a stable upbringing, Ewa has been raising her granddaughter as Majka’s sister, and loves her like her own daughter. Majka develops maternal feelings herself, and feels her mother has committed a kind of theft. Since Ewa does not wish to expose her granddaughter to the truth and maybe lose her, Majka decides to steal her daughter back, and hides first with the schoolteacher, and then, when Ewa calls, heads for the railroad station with Ania to go abroad. Here again: the railroad station as a setting for the turning points in people’s lives.

This is the one installment of “The Decalogue” that left the critics seriously divided. Kieslowski managed to create a situation in which love and egoism are indistinguishably intertwined, and in the rivalry over Ania it is the loved one who suffers the most. The psychological and ethical tangle in the conflict between Majka and Ewa is delineated with precision not only through the screenplay and directing but also through the performances of Anna Polony and Maja Barelkowska in her debut.

Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness (Decalogue 8) / Dekalog 8
1988,  Poland, TV film
35 mm, color, 55min
Director:
Krzysztof Kieslowski
Screenplay:
Krzysztof Piesiewicz, Krzysztof Kieslowski
Cinematography & Camera Operator:
Andrzej J. Jaroszewicz
Art Director:
Halina Dobrowolska
Music:
Zbigniew Preisner; Performed by:  Lodz Philharmonic Orchestra; Conductor: Zdzislaw Szostak
Production Company:
Polish Television
Cast:
Maria Koscialkowska (Zofia), Teresa Marczewska (Elzbieta), Artur Barcis (student), Tadeusz Lomnicki (Tailor), Marian Opania (Dean), Bronislaw Pawlik, and others.

 



















"Beneath the calm, well-balanced narration of the film, a real black swirl of emotions is hidden, into which a viewer is dragged even against his will" – wrote a critic after the “Decalogue 8” premiere. The film gained a reputation as one of the best and most important in the whole series.  It is the moving story of a woman, now a professor of ethics, who during the German occupation refused to help a Jewish girl, allegedly because she didn’t want to have to tell a lie. But under the circumstances of the Polish resistance, that was a lie in itself, an evasion at the risk of one life that was meant to protect a secret plan to save many lives. But that was not all: the danger that had seemed to threaten the community turned out to be a false alarm. This convergence of falsehoods and half-truths strongly influenced the lives of the two women  – both magnificently played by Teresa Marczewska and Maria Koscialkowska.

As Zofia explains the reason for her apparent cowardice, Elzbieta's faith in humanity begins to be restored, and Zofia’s long-standing sense of guilt begins to find some relief. But will the two women learn all the reasons behind Zofia’s decision after so many years? Does a “whole truth” about her painful choice even exist? "Decalogue 8" is not an easy film. There are more dialogues and longer monologues here than in the other parts of the series, and there are more issues: besides the complicated dialectics of truth and lying, there are questions of Polish-Jewish relations, the theme of the “guilt of the innocent”, and questions whether one life can be sacrificed in order to save many other lives, whether one lie committed with noble intent can sometimes entail an even bigger and more destructive lie. It all makes "Decalogue 8" a religious-philosophical treatise written in images.

Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor's Wife (Decalogue 9) / Dekalog 9
1988,  Poland, TV film
35 mm, color, 58 min
Director:
Krzysztof Kieslowski
Screenplay:
Krzysztof Piesiewicz, Krzysztof Kieslowski
Cinematography & Camera Operator:
Piotr Sobocinski
Art Director:
Halina Dobrowolska
Music:
Zbigniew Preisner; Performed by: Lodz Philharmonic Orchestra, Elzbieta Towarnicka (soprano); Conductor: Zdzislaw Szostak
Film excerpt: “Tort” –
from a “Lis Leon” series; screenplay: K. Kowalski, K. Chrominski, music: J. Mentel
Production Company:
Polish Television
Cast:
Ewa Blaszczyk (Hanka), Piotr Machalica (Roman), Artur Barcis (Young Man), Jan Jankowski (Mariusz), Jolanta Pietek-Gorecka (Ola), Katarzyna Piwowarczyk (Ania), Jerzy Trela (Mikolaj), and others.

 






















A heart surgeon not yet 40, Roman learns he is incurably impotent and concludes that his solid marriage is ruined, but his wife loves him no matter what and intends to stay. Roman mentions that she might be reduced to taking a lover, whereupon he becomes obsessively jealous and eventually indeed catches his wife with a young lover. She reassures him it was a release without emotional overtones whatsoever, their love is reaffirmed, and they decide to adopt a child. But first they agree to take a break from each other following the recent upheavals, and she decides to go skiing. Roman discovers that the ex-lover has similar plans, unaware that Hanka has broken off the affair, and is so convinced his wife has betrayed him after all that he decides to commit suicide… Kieslowski questions what it is that really cements a marriage and what therefore really constitutes adultery.

In "Decalogue 9", also sometimes called „A Short Film About Jealousy”, Kieslowski’s psychological intuition allows him to describe in a believable way yet another life paradoxical situation. Piotr Machalica as Roman and Ewa Blaszczyk as Hanka give a real actors’ concert. The story of their characters movingly reflects the Christian understanding of love as a connection of souls above all.

Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor's Goods (Decalogue 10) / Dekalog 10
1989,  Poland, TV film (premiere:  June 24, 1989)
35 mm, color, 57 min
Director:
Krzysztof Kieslowski
Screenplay:
Krzysztof Piesiewicz, Krzysztof Kieslowski
Cinematography:
Jacek Blawut
Art Director:
Halina Dobrowolska
Music:
Zbigniew Preisner; Performed by:  Lodz Philharmonic Orchestra; Conductor: Zdzislaw Szostak
Song: „Zabijaj, zabijaj”, words:
K. Kieslowski, music: P. Klatt, performed by Zbigniew Zamachowski and Roze Europy group
Production Company:
Polish Television
Cast:
Jerzy Stuhr (Jerzy), Zbigniew Zamachowski (Artur), Henryk Bista (Shopkeeper), Olaf Lubaszenko (Tomek), Maciej Stuhr (Piotrek), Jerzy Turek (Filatelist), Anna Gronostaj (Nurse), Henryk Majcherek (Filatelists’ President), Elzbieta Panas (Jerzy’s Wife), and others.

 






















A man dies leaving an extremely valuable stamp collection to his two sons, Jerzy and Artur. Although they know very little about stamps, when they learn of the collection’s value, they get interested in stamp-collecting. Gradually, this interest takes on an absurdly unhealthy intensity. They learn that one very rare stamp is needed to complete a valuable series. To acquire the stamp Jerzy donates his kidney: the man in possession of the stamp is in need of a kidney for his daughter. Returning from hospital, Jerzy and Artur discover what seems like the end of their world, but there is a silver lining.