Posted by: s. night screening | December 2, 2011

the december project: the decalogue

i don’t think there are any other filmmakers who define the term international filmmaker in my life time more fittingly than krzysztof kieslowski. the three colours trilogy and the double life of veronique are some of the best films ever made. kieslowski has a higher batting average than most filmmakers in history. in december (kind of christmas-y but probably fit better in april with easter), we’ll be focusing on the decalogue, originally a tv mini-series from 1989, before his later, more renowned films.

the decalogue is described as ten short films each based on a commandments, the catholic version. though like the three colours trilogy, which is loosely based on the colours of the french flag (kieslowski himself had said that it’s based on the french flag simply because of that’s where the funding came from), the decalogue is more inspired by the ten commandments rather than a strict adaptation of each commandment. sometimes more than one can be related to one episode, sometimes one has to look closer to see which commandment(s) fits to which short film (the marketing department did eventually lists a specific commandment to correlate to each short film). what makes kieslowski unique is that regardless of inspirations, he never forgets that fictional characters are first and foremost the focus, with messages and morals second. you are never bored by his films nor do you feel being preached. it sounds like a simple task but it’s actually a rarity in cinema. it’s surprisingly rare that films lead you to expand your mind, extend the scope of your thinking, and create the needs to contemplate, think, and discuss with other people and/or yourself afterward (and not in that pseudo-intellectual brain-teaser mind-twister commercial-noir christopher-nolan usual-suspects types of “deep” discussions).

good movies make you feel entertained, or make you think, or at least wow you with their technical skills, but great movies accomplished at least two if not all of those things. now that i think about it, kieslowski‘s works have shaped my definition of great movies.

there are already quite a bit studies done on the decalogue. it’s quite different from the movies you usually see on this site (there will be other posts in between). roger ebert did an intro on the dvd, which you can read here. there are also two invaluable books, kieslowski on kieslowski and double lives, second chances by annette insdorf. i highly recommend the three colours trilogy if you haven’t seen it, before the decalogue.



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