Image/1988/560m/FS 1.33

      The brilliant series of ten films directed and co-written by Krzysztof Kieslowski for Polish television in 1988 is an absolute must for lovers of foreign film. Each of these "slice of life" films is supposedly based on one of the Ten Commandments, though not necessarily in order. Personally, I chose to ignore the premise and simply watch each episode for its intrinsic value, without trying to figure out how it related to the tablets of Moses.
      The initial segment tells the story of a brilliant child, a  computer prodigy, whose wonderful relationship with his father plays out like an exquisite violin sonata. The first was the best for me, though each tale is thoroughly engrossing. The final tale plays out with tongue in cheek as two brothers, vastly different in their life styles, inherit a stamp collection from their deceased father. There's a wonderful story about a young peeping tom and another about a mother trying to reclaim her daughter. 

Competing in the arena of the mind. ©Image

     The variety of tales is interesting. Almost all of the films focus on an intimate level. Personal relationships shape the 56 compressed emotional film minutes. No, each ensuing segment is not better than the last, but the standard of storytelling is remarkably high and focused. You are pulled into these tales immediately. Kieslowski wastes no time before focusing in on the life forces surrounding these character. There are a few recurring character that make minor appearances in one or other of the stories, and there's even a delicious oral retelling of one of the tales in a class room setting, but each stands on its own.
     Kieslowski chose to use a different cinematographer for each episode to find a fresh look, though I found little distinction in photographic style. The strong unifying elements are the powerful use of close-ups in every film, as well as the scores from  insightful Zbigniew Preisner. Kieslowski likely never strayed from close quarters with each of his camera artists.
       This is treasure chest of collected stories from Kieslowski and co-writer Krzysztof Piesiewicz. Though the quality of the DVD is not of the first order, this is a must-have set and lack of DVD brilliance does little to diminish the thorough pleasure of experiencing The Decalogue.  Delivered by Image in a two DVD set, the transfers are no more than serviceable. Quality from episode to episode differs slightly, and only one, episode 5, "Thou Shalt Not Kill," is truly sub-par. The DVD quality is likely limited by the source elements. Kieslowski's quick shoot for these ten films perhaps impacted the level of production gloss. White English subtitles appear on the 1.33 image. 






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