The Ten Commandments Become Flesh

A Polish director prods European and American audiences to consider God's timeless standards.
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Directed By
Run Time
9 hours 32 minutes
Artur Barcis, Olgierd Lukaszewicz, Aleksander Bardini, Olaf Lubaszenko
Theatre Release
December 10, 1989
The Decalogue
Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski
Facets Multimedia or 800.331.6197

Pawel, a boy who appears to be younger than 10, is questioning his Catholic aunt about her faith. The boy's mother is dead, and his father is a rationalist who doesn't know how to answer Pawel's inquiries about anything that cannot be measured. When the aunt tells Pawel that she believes in God, Pawel wants her to describe him.

She gets up from her chair, pulls the boy to herself and holds him tight.

"What do you feel now?" she asks after a while.

"I love you," Pawel says.

"Exactly," the aunt says. "That's where he is."

This scene and others from the Polish series The Decalogue are more like poetry than like systematic theology. And, God knows, those of us who have him all charted out badly need a little poetry, a little wonder, a little mystery. All this can be found in Krzysztof Kieslowski's The Decalogue, ten films loosely related to the Ten Commandments and originally made for television. The movies show without having to tell. Legendary Polish director Kieslowski takes only a few words to render such complex ideas as God himself. At the same time, Decalogue's subtle depictions do not strip God, or his absolutes, of mystery.

After seeing the films, Stanley Kubrick praised Kieslowski and screenplay coauthor Krzysztof Piesiewicz for "the very rare ability to dramatize their ideas rather than just talk about them." Indeed, the screenwriters placed abstract absolutes into concrete, unpredictable, and yet realistic situations. They managed to transcribe the metaphysical into the tangible, without claiming that the end result is a complete picture. The well-developed metaphors and multilayered symbols penetrate to the core of a human soul. ...

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