21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
A Classic of East European Cinema,
This review is from: Dekalog: Parts 1-5 [DVD] (DVD)
"Dekalog" consists of ten ,one-hour long films ,each based loosely on one of the Ten Commandments. Each film is set in a stereotypical drab ,high-rise housing estate in Warsaw ,during Communist rule in the 1980's. It would be flippant ,and a gross over-simplification, to say that "Dekalog" is like a cross between "Play for Today" and "EastEnders", but Kieslowski's ten films do have certain similarities in format to these two programmes. The estate is like a huge, high-rise Albert Square and each film is like a well-constructed play ; each one dealing with different types of social, personal and emotional issues and all containing impressive and intense acting performances by the cast. The character portraits that Kieslowski draws in each episode of the "Dekalog" are exquisite. The ten films are for the most part earnest and grim , without much light relief for the viewer. They are ,most certainly,not a barrel of laughs . All of the films deal with events that put a strain on loving personal relationships ; mostly between parent and child and husband and wife. Other common themes featured in the ten films are those of loneliness, alienation, regret and despair. Also, in nearly all of the films , a taciturn young man (Artur Barcis) appears .He neither utters any words nor interacts with any of the characters. He appears whenever the main character in each film faces a serious moral dilemma or personal trial. Is he God , an angel or a demon ? Can he even be seen by the other characters in the film ? Each film is slow paced and filmed superbly by Kieslowski ; many beautiful images are portrayed and he captures the vast range of emotions of his characters perfectly. We also get a vivid picture of life under Communism; a drab, uniform landscape where doctors, counter- assistants, IT workers, university lecturers and taxi drivers all live in the same utilitarian high rise estate. However beneath this deceptive ,surface greyness are a myriad of individual lives and relationships filled with love, regret and despair, which mirror those found all over the world and are common to the human experience. Kieslowski binds all of these themes together with religion and the Ten Commandments in particular. He shows in his films how the Mosaic Law is relevant to today's very different world and what the consequences are of ignoring these instructions. "Dekalog" is split into two discs , "1-5" and "6-10." "1-5" features the best of the films in "Dekalog" , "Dekalog 5" , a harrowing and memorable tale about a young man who murders a taxi driver in cold blood. "Dekalog 1" is also exceptional; a tale about a father-son relationship which ends in tragedy. If I was to make one criticism of the films, apart from their unremitting seriousness, it would be about the English subtitles. The quality of the English translation in my DVD wasn't the greatest and sometimes they didn't stay on the screen long enough for me to read them properly.
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Initial post: 5 Aug 2011 17:16:07 BDT
Humpty Dumpty says:
Extremely helpful review. Thank you very much, Mr Davidson.
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