A 1988 miniseries about the Ten Commandments.
The Decalogue (Polish: , pronounced [de?kalok]) is a 1989 Polish television drama series directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski and co-written by Kieslowski with Krzysztof Piesiewicz, with music by Zbigniew Preisner. It consists of ten one-hour films, inspired by the Ten Commandments. Each short film explores one or several moral or ethical issues faced by characters living in modern Poland.
The series is Kieslowskis most acclaimed work, has been said to be "the best dramatic work ever done specifically for television" and has won numerous international awards, though it was not widely released outside Europe until the late 1990s. Filmmaker Stanley Kubrick wrote an admiring foreword to the published screenplay in 1991.
Though each film is independent, most of them share the same setting (a large housing project in Warsaw), and some of the characters are acquainted with each other. The large cast includes both famous actors and unknowns, many of whom Kieslowski also used in his other films. Typically for Kieslowski, the tone of most of the films is melancholic, except for the final one, which, like Three Colors: White, is a black comedy, and features two of the same actors, Jerzy Stuhr and Zbigniew Zamachowski.
The series was conceived when Krzysztof Piesiewicz, who had seen a 15th-century artwork illustrating the Commandments in scenes from that time period, suggested the idea of a modern equivalent. Krzysztof Kieslowski was interested in the philosophical challenge and also wanted to use the series as a portrait of the hardships of Polish society, while deliberately avoiding the political issues he had depicted in earlier films. He originally meant to hire ten different directors, but decided to direct the films himself, though using a different cinematographer for each with exception of episodes III and IX, both of which used Piotr Sobocinski as director of photography.
The ten films are titled simply by number (e.g. Decalogue: One). According to Roger Eberts introduction to the DVD set, Kieslowski said that the films did not correspond exactly to the commandments, and never used their names himself.
The themes of The Decalogue can be interpreted in many different ways; however, each film has its own literality:
There is a nameless character, played by Polish actor Artur Barcis and possibly meant to be a supernatural figure, who observes the main characters at key moments but never intervenes (this character appears in all episodes except episodes 7 and 10).
Milk is a symbolic element in some of the films.
The Decalogue was admired by critics as well as by important figures from the film industry such as Stanley Kubrick.
The DVD box issue holds 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 28 reviews. The series was also praised by some of the renowned film critics, including Roger Ebert and Robert Fulford.
In the 2002 Sight & Sound poll to determine the greatest films of all time, The Decalogue and A Short Film About Killing received votes from 4 critics and 3 directors, including Ebert, New Yorker critic David Denby, and director Mira Nair. Additionally, in the Sight & Sound poll held the same year to determine the top 10 films of the previous 25 years, Kieslowski was named #2 on the list of Top Directors, with votes for his films being split between Decalogue, Three Colors Red/Blue, and The Double Life of Veronique.
In 2002, the film was also listed among the Top 100 "Essential Films" of all time by the National Society of Film Critics and ranked #36 in Empire magazines "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema" in 2010.
Kieslowski expanded Five and Six into longer feature films (A Short Film About Killing and A Short Film About Love), using the same cast and changing the stories slightly. This was part of a contractual obligation with the producers, since feature films were easier to distribute outside Poland. In 2000, the series was released on five DVDs, each containing two parts of about 2 hours.