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  • Writer's pictureP D Dawson

Kieślowski's Dekalog, Part Three of Ten (Film Review)

Dekalog, Three

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work, but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.


Part three takes place on Christmas Eve. The single father, Krzysztof from part one, is looking through the window at a family sat around a table, whose children are waiting for their Christmas presents, when he crosses paths with Janusz dressed as Santa. This is when we begin to see director Krzysztof Kieślowski's interweaving of the lives affected by those who break any of the ten commandments, and how the breaking of just one can lead to the breaking of others. The commandment being broken in this part is 'Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy.' but we may silently ask, does that include the sabbath night as well?

Janusz gets home to his wife and gives out the presents to his children dressed as Santa, but after taking his children to midnight mass, the intercom rings. It is Ewa, his ex-lover. Outside she confronts him with a problem - that her husband has gone missing and she needs his help to find him. But she is deceiving him and playing out a promise she made to herself - to not be alone on Christmas Eve. He agrees to go with her and tells his wife that someone has stolen his cab, but he meets Ewa around the corner. On their journey to find her husband they visit the city's morgue, a hospital, a drunk's holding cell, and even eventually to a tram station. Janusz almost rekindles his love for Ewa on the journey, but while they are at Ewa's home, and he close to adultery, they are interrupted by Christmas carol singers at the door. Eventually Ewa admits that she split from her husband years ago, and that she lied only because she didn't want to be alone on Christmas Eve.

The characters in part three are tested by desire and Janusz especially is thwarted by a deception told by his ex-lover. But he is not guiltless, and one feels he is confused and almost wants to rekindle his love for Ewa, until he realises the depth of the love he has for his family. Come the end, he has to rely on his wife's forgiveness for the deception he has visited upon her door.

This part is embroiled with a sense that desire is all around, and no one can escape it. Old flames can resurface and test one's desire, regardless of how happy a person thinks they are in life. Kieślowski leaves these characters to find their own path in the wilderness of temptation, but there are warning signs subtly given in the film about the paths that one chooses, and how one path can lead to happiness and contentment, while the other: to desperation, despair and destruction for all involved.

There colour palette in part three is much richer than the previous instalment and the angles and lighting effects lend themselves to greater cinematic effect. This may be down to an increase in budget, or it may just have been an intentional decision made by Kieślowski and his cinematographer Piotr Sobociński. In a few scenes involving car headlights, the fogging effect is wonderfully stylistic and great to see in a series intended only for television.

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