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The full Dekalog consists of ten one-hour films: this pair of double discs contains the first five. The links to the specific commandments are often oblique and imprecise, and shouldn't be taken too literally. Kieœlowski is using this framework not as a direct exposition of Mosaic Law, nor even as a commentary on its relevance today, but rather as a series of meditations on the complexity of moral choices. All the films are set in the same drab high-rise Warsaw housing estate, and characters from one story will show up the background of others, passing across the frame as they go about their business. One young man who appears in nearly all the films never plays a leading role nor even speaks a line, but remains a watchful, melancholy presence, haunting and disquieting, gazing at the events unfolding around him like an uneasy conscience.
Grim though these stories are, there's often a note of ironic humour leavening the overall bleakness. But this set ends with one of the grimmest of all. In Dekalog 5 a young man murders a taxi driver for no apparent reason, then is executed himself. Both deaths are equally squalid and appalling. This episode was later expanded to feature-film length with the title A Short Film About Killing. The greater length enhanced its impact; it's a pity that room wasn't found for that longer version here.
On the DVDs: Dekalog, Parts 1-5 offers very little additional material. The second disc, which contains episodes 4 and 5, also includes a brief on-screen text biography and filmography for Kieœlowski. The films are shown in their original 4:3 ratio, in a crisp clean transfer. --Philip Kemp
Krzysztof Kieslowski biography and filmography
Polish with English Subtitles
Original 4:3 aspect ratio
Dolby Digital 1.0
All the works concern various individual and overlapping lives on a vast Polish housing estate, and are filmed in colour which seems to have been drained of all but the most sombre hues. The theme of each film is drawn loosely from the ten comandments and explores what those imperatives might mean in a modern context. There is a profound sense of locality, with the films growing out of specifically Polish experience, yet never seeming parochial. Seen through Kieslowski's lense that vast housing complex really does become an entire world. The most famous of the series are those which gained independent release as "A short film about Killing" and "A short film about Love", but make no mistake, the quality of all the works is uniformly high.
Anyone who has come to know Kieslowski's work through later films such as "The Double Life of Veronique" or the "Three Colours Trilogy", might be surprised by the absences of beautiful effects and flights of poetic fancy. These are not films which offer the comforts or almost mystical catharsis of his last works. Instead they turn an unflinching gaze on some ordinary lives, focussing on the meanness, solitude and quiet desperation of ordinary people, but by doing so they ultimately offer moments of redemption and humanity which put them into the same rank as the later portraits of Rembrandt. These are films to return to again and again.Read more ›
First lets get the one downside out of the way: The audio quality has a lot to answer for! It's not terrible but for me (a sound engineer) it really made me question if the company that dealt with the DVD conversion really considered the importance of this collection. But don't let me put you off because of the audio quality, at the end of the day it really isn't that bad and it sort of adds to the time it was created.
Now on to the good side, or sides I should say: I could pick any one part of these 10 stories and find incredible acting, totally original camera work and an inspirational story told in a wonderfully natural fashion.
When I first got the collection I slipped the first one one purely out of interest and I can honestly say I have never to my memory been so captivated by the first 10 minutes of a film.
The music, the intrigue, the script and the most convincing child actor I think I've ever seen.
Even the 2 parts I consider to be not so good you could pull to pieces and discover so much.
I really could type forever on this masterpiece of a collection but instead I'll leave the space below for all of you to put your comments in.
Krzysztof set a standard in 1988 and that standard is far far out of reach to many of the modern day directors (dare I say it!)