From "The Ten Commandments"
to the "Decalogue"

by John M. Grondelski

NOTES

1. New Yorker Films Video, released in VHS format in North America April 2000.

2. In this article each of the "Decalogue" series films will be designated as "D" and the Roman numeral of the corresponding Commandment (e.g., "D-I"). This method corresponds to the way Kieślowski himself entitled the individual films. Kieślowski simply titles the films as, e.g., "Decalogue I," without naming the Commandment. According to Tadeusz Sobolewski (Gazeta Wyborcza, issue 122 of October 26, 1989, p. 8) when the films appeared in Western Europe, some theaters found it necessary to provide little cards with the text of the Ten Commandments printed on them to help viewers remember the subject of the particular precept.

3. Kieślowski explained that "D-V" was the film that he really wanted to do, but economic considerations in mid-1980s Poland made television movie serials more viable. While Telewizja Polska bought the ten one-hour "Decalogue" films, he also got additional funds from the Polish Ministry of Culture, which was interested in funding films for movie theaters. They wanted two films. Kieślowski insisted that one be "D-V" ("A Short Film about Killing") and left the choice about the other to them. They chose "D-V," which became "A Short Film about Love." See Danuta Stok, ed., Krzyszstof Kieślowski o sobie [Krzysztof Kieślowski on Himself] (Kraków: Wydawnictwo Znak, 1997), pp. 119-21.

4. Kieślowski was born June 27, 1941. He studied film in Łódź from 1957-68 and became associated with the TOR film company in Poland. He has been recognized for his artistic achievement at such festivals as Kraków, Mannheim, Venice, Moscow, and Cannes, and has been an Oscar nominee.

5. Serafino Murri, Krzysztof Kieślowski, Milan: Il Castro, 1986, pp. 75-77.

6. "W kraju panował chaos i bałagan - w każdej dziedzinie, w każdej sprawie i w prawie każdym życiu . . .  Nie myśłę nawet o polityce, ale o zwykłym, codziennym życiu ... Miałem dojmujące wrażenie, że coraz częściej ogladam ludzi, którzy nie bardzo wiedzą, po co żyją."  [Chaos and disorder ruled in the country: in every branch of life, in every issue, and in practically every life ... I do not have politics in mind, but ordinary, everyday life ... I had the keen impression that I was ever more frequently looking at people who did not really know why they were living]. Stok, p. 111. All foreign language translations appearing in these notes, except where indicated, are the author's.

7. Directed by Agnieszka Holland and released by Columbia Pictures/France 3 Cinéma in 1988, starring Christopher Lambert.

8. There was supposedly a documentary featuring Kieślowski and Piesiewicz produced in 1994 by Dominique Rabourdin, "Dialogue autour de Décalogue," but this author has not seen it. It is mentioned in an article discussing documentaries about Kieślowski's life and work: see Mikołaj Jazdon, "Spotkania z Kieślowskim.  O dokumentalnych potretach reżysera"[Encounters with Kieślowski: On Documentary Potraits of the Director], Kwartalnik Filmowy, (Spring 2001), pp. 162-71.

9. "... sui dieci precetti morali dell'Antico Testamento sul cui sfondo si basa anche gran parte della giurisprudenza ... "Murri, p. 77.

10. Kieślowski says that he picked a recently constructed apartment complex because, while it looked bad, it only suggested how much worse others might be. ("Wygląda dość okropnie.  Można sobie wyobrazić, jakie są te inne"). Stok,  p. 114. In mid-1980s Warsaw, with only grey socialist apartment blocs to choose from, Kieślowski's observations might have applied to the general Polish reality. The boom in luxury housing for the better-heeled in districts like Ursynów or Konstanciń today might elicit other social justice critiques from socially conscious film directors.

11. "Od czasu Wajdy oraz młodego Skolimowskiego, a więc od lat sześćdziesiątych, żaden polski reżyser (poza Polańskim) nie cieszył się takim uznamiem w świecie. Jednak kariera "szkoły polskiej" polegała na czymś innym: na bohaterów 'Kanału' czy  'Popiołu i diamentu'  świat patrzył jak na tragicznych, ale egzotycznych samurajów. Natomiast bohaterowie Kieślowskiego są ludźmi takimi, jak wszyscy pod każdą szerokością geograficzną. [Kieślowski] [ p]ostawił polskiego filmu poza  kompleksem polskim  wobec tajemnicy zła, tajemnicy losu, tajemnicy Boga." Tadeusz Sobolewski, "Warto Zobacyzc - Dekalog" [Worth Seeing - The Decalogue] , Gazeta Wyborcza, issue 122 of October 26, 1989, p. 8, col. 4.

12. "Intuiczjnie zaczęliśmy przypuszczać, że Dekalog może stać się filmem uniwersalnym. Postanowiliśmy więc wyrzucić politykę z filmów." Stok, p. 113. At the same time, one cannot simply abstract from the concrete politico-cultural conditions which inspired Kieślowski. While the crisis of faith may be as great in the West as it was in Poland, its depiction in "D-I" is also colored by the fact that Krzysztof lived in a country whose rulers ideologically postulated atheism as the governing social ideology.

13. Stok, p. 112.

14. See Christopher Garbowski, Krzysztof Kieślowski's Decalogue Series: The Problem of the Protagonists and Their Self-Transcendence,  in the "Eastern European Monographs" series, no. 452 (Boulder, CO: Eastern European Monographs, 1996).   Garbowski, from the Catholic University of Lublin, provides a good Catholic theological context - the context within which Kieślowski would have been speaking in Poland - to these films.

15. See Michał Klinger, "Strażnik wrót. Rzecz o Dekalogu Krzysztofa Kieślowskiego" in Kino Krzysztofa Kieślowskiego [The Cinema of Krzysztof Kieślowski], (Kraków: Universitas, 1997), pp. 57. 58.

16. Kieślowski related the story he heard from Witek Zalewski about Mach's funeral anecdote. Mach had made a film that included a funeral scene. Asked what he liked best about the scene, a viewer said the man in the black suit on the left. Even the producer had not noticed that particular extra's inclusion, but the viewer did. That silent figure is needed. Kieślowski  says he added his figure, the young man, because "Some people notice him as he looks around and observes. He has no influence on what goes on, but he constitutes his own kind of sign or warning to those whom he looks upon, if they notice him." ["Niektórzy go widzą, jak patrzy, przygląda się. Nie ma wpływu na to, co się dzieje, ale stanowi swego rodzaju znak czy ostrzeżenie dla tych, którym się przygląda, jeżeli go dostrzegają"). Stok, p. 125, translation the author's.

17. Thus, in "D-I" we see an icon of Our Lady of Częstochowa, much of the action in "D-III" takes place around the traditional Polish Christmas Eve ("Wigilia") and Midnight Mass ("Pasterka") celebrations, a young girl's First Communion picture is prominent in "D-V," and Baptism becomes a key motive for the action in "D-VIII."

18. See Karol Wojtyła (Pope John Paul II), Sign of Contradiction, Crossroad Books (New York: Seabury Press, 1979), pp. 59-61.

19. "I have the impression that the silence and ontological darkness of God is His proper topos, that which remains after the extinguishing of symbols by rationalism - great European rationalism." [Mam wrażenie, że milczenie i ciemność ontologiczna Boga, to jest swoisty topos, to co pozostało po wzgaszonych przez racjonalizm - wielki racjonalizm europejski - symbolach"]. Klinger, p. 54.

20. Klinger, p. 54.

21. "Jest rzeczą niewątpliwie zastanawiającą, że w ogóle znalazł się ktoś, kto podjąl temat Dziesięciorga Przykazań, a zwlaszcza już to, że okazał się niom deklarujęcy swój agnostycyzm Kieślowski." Gina Lagorio, quoted in Kieślowski znany i nieznany Kieślowski: Known and Unknown] (Warsaw/Siedlce: n.p., 1998), p. 41. Lagorio is author of a 1991 Italian work on the Decalogue unknown to this author: Il Decalogo di Kieślowski.

22. "Sztuka Kieślowskiego jest religijna. Naprawdę uniwersalna, wznosi się ponad politycznymi i kulturowymi podziałami współczesności. Jej dramat odnosi się nie tylko do nas, poddanych - wówczas, gdy filmy te powstawały - kryzysowi socjalizmu, lecz także do naszych braci na (zbyt) cywiliozowanym Zachodzie, gdzie o Bogu mowić jest jakby wstyd ..." Klinger, p. 51.

23. I John 4:20. See also James 2: 14-20.

24. French scholar André Chouraqui argues that "... si l'homme accomplissait ses devoirs élémentaires, don't les principaux sont précisément contenus dans les Dix Commandements, une déclaration concernant les droits ne serait pas nécessaire. [If a man carries out his elementary duties, the principle ones of which being contained precisely in the Ten Commandments, a declaration about his rights would not be necessary]. André Chouraqui, Les Dix Commandements Aujourd'hui.  Dix paroles pour réconcilier l'Homme avec le humain. (Paris: Édition Robert Laffont, 2000), p. 21, emphasis original.  Chouraqui's subtitle encapsulates the position he (and the present author and arguably Kieślowski ) take: the Decalogue is "ten words to reconcile man with the human."

25. In addition to the literature already cited in the previous notes, the following studies of Kieślowski's "Decalogue" have also appeared: Veronique Campan, Dix brèves histoires d'image. Le Décalogue de Krzysztof Kieślowski (Paris: Presses de la Sorbonne nouvelle, 1993); Monika Erbstein, Untersuchungen zum Filmsprache im Werke von Krzysztof Kieślowski (Alfeld: Coppi-Verlag, 1997); Walter Lesch and Matthias Loretan, eds. Das Gewicht der Gebote und die Möglichkeiten der Kunst: Krzysztof Kieślowskis 'Dekalog' - Filme als ethische Modelle (Freiburg, Switzerland: Universitätsverlag, 1993);  Stefania Rimini, L'etica della sguardo. Introduzione al cinema di Krzystof Kieślowski (Naples, Italy: Ligouri, 2000); Gabriella Ripa di Meana,  La morale dell'altro: scritti sull'inconscio dal Decalogo di Kieślowski (Florence, Italy: Liberal Libri, 1998); Yvette Biró, Krzysztof Kieślowski (Paris: Lettres modernes, 1994); Vincent Amiel, Kieślowski (Paris: Rivages, 1995); Gérard Pangon and Vincent Amiel, Krzysztof Kieślowski, Cannes Film Festival 1988 (Paris: Arte, 1997); Annette Insdorf, Double Lives, Second Chances: The Cinema of Krzysztof Kieślowski (New York: Miramax, 1999); Paul Coates, ed., Lucid Dreams: The Films of Krzysztof Kieślowski (Trowbridge, England: Flicks Books, 1999); Slavoj Žižek, The Fright of Real Tears: Krzysztof Kieślowski Between Theory and Post Theory (London: BFI Books, 2001);  Vito Attolini et al., Krzysztof Kieślowski (Manduria: Barbieri, 1998); Małgorzata Furdel and Roberto Turigliatto Kieślowski (Turin: Museo Nazionale del Cinema, 1989); and Sylvain de Bleeckere, Levenswaarden en levensverhalen. Een Studie van de Decaloog van Kieślowski (Leuven, Belgium: Acco, 1994). Although not perhaps directly relevant: Emma Wilson, Memory and Survival: The French Cinema of Krzysztof Kieślowski (Oxford: Legenda, 2000).


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