Length: 572 minutes / 9.53 hours
Dekalog almost defies categorization. While you could say it’s a TV show, the only recurring “character” is the apartment complex where many of the characters of the different “episodes” happen to live. If it’s a movie, it’s a very long one comprised of ten one-hour short films. Therefore, Dekalog is probably best defined as a TV mini-series. But, don’t let that label fool you: each one of these ten short films packs a huge punch individually, but produce a well-rounded examination of humanity in their entirety. Perhaps we should consider Dekalog as an anthology of the human condition. Life and death. Love and hate. Gain and loss. It’s all there in Dekalog.
What hits you first with Dekalog is the depth of the plots. Most of the episodes have some ethical dilemma that drives their characters. From a man questioning his faith in science to a woman who is pregnant with a bastard child while her husband is dying in a hospital, the impact that director Krzysztof Kieślowski makes in a brief, one-hour segment is undeniable. If you pay close attention, you do realize that these ten short films mirror the missives put forth in the ten commandments of the Bible. The subtlety of these allusions shows how the commandments are still applicable in modern society. Even if 1989 isn’t as modern as today, the lessons remain the same.
Even though some of the individual parts of Dekalog didn’t grab my attention, the loosely intertwining narrative certainly shows how Kieślowski already could weave a compelling series out of practically disparate segments, with each even having their own stylistic cinematography to emphasize the plot. A few years after Dekalog, he would go on to create one of the most beautiful and human trilogies ever committed to film with his Three Colors trilogy. Dekalog merely hints at this creative achievement to come, balancing heavy drama with brief moments of levity to ensure that the audience is left with a profound statement and not a depressing ending.
A masterpiece of film and the best television ever had to offer, I give Dekalog 5.0 stars out of 5.