Monday, July 23, 2007

Movie Mini-Review: The Decalogue, Part I

Posted by Alistair.

Krzysztof Kieslowski's Decalogue is a series of ten one-hour films inspired by the Ten Commandments. In the first film—loosely inspired by the commandment "I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods before me"—a young linguistics professor teaches his son about the world. The professor (Henryk Baranowski) gives his son Pawel (Wojciech Klata) complicated physics problems, takes him to his class, and generally teaches his son about the hidden joys of the intellectual world. I have known several father and son duos just like the one depicted in the movie and Kieslowski gets it exactly right. He perfectly captures the mild discomfort the father faces when forced to deal with the world outside of his classroom. Likewise, Pawel is shown with the exact mix of aloof sadness and naivety that characterizes intelligent children. Although they may have their flaws, the characters really and deeply love each other and Kieslowski shows this love in all of its simple and powerful beauty. This is the best part about this movie, and if it had ended after the first thirty minutes in which the characters are introduced it would be more than worthy of its reputation.

Unfortunately it does not. It goes on to discuss God and how religion cannot be replaced by science. Maybe this stuff was novel at one point, but now it has become remarkably cliched. Particularly when we get the message from people who completely lack an understanding of the computer. Although I have only seen the first part of the Decalogue, it has so far failed to live up to its immense reputation. I hope the next nine parts improve upon the story put forth here. But the first episode of the Decalogue shows a brilliant understanding of family and a lack of spiritual or religious clue. Its a shame religion is the subject of this series and not fathers and sons.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The film is precisely about the world we currently live in, a Godless society where everything has a neat scientific and provable explanation to reduce the awesome unknowingness of the universe to a simple explanation by a smiling professor in a physics classroom. Religion is the other side of the scientific coin, equally vain and filled with yet more speculations and claims to knowing and understanding truth. Kieslowski's film Decalogue 1 uses irony for both religion and science. One waves microscopes, the other, chunky gold crosses. He gets only one small step closer perhaps to the answers to the questions he is searching for, in the film The Double Life Of Veronique and Three Colors Red.