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  • Writer's pictureP D Dawson

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

Dekalog, Four

Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.


Part four takes place on Easter Monday, opening with a scene that would seem more at home among two friends, rather than father and Daughter. Anka wakes Michal, her father, with a trick with water, but he vows to get her back, and he does. He tells her he needs to get into the bathroom, but upon opening the door, he throws an entire bowl of water over her. She is wearing a thin nightie and the water makes the material transparent. What is significant however, is how Michal looks at his daughter, for there is a flicker of desire in his eyes, and an unspoken truth that opens up between them. Do they both want the same thing?

Shortly after this, Michal goes away on a business trip, but he leaves an envelope on his desk with the words - 'Open after my death.' Inside of this envelope is another envelope addressed by her dead mother. It holds a secret and Anka is convinced it will tell her that Michal is not her real father. But down by the river, as she is about to open it and read it, an oarsman, played by Artur Barciś, seems to persuade her not to with his stare. Barciś appears in every instalment of the Dekalog cycle thus far, always playing a small part but popping up at crucial times, it's almost as if he is the glue that holds the entire cycle together.

Part four at its heart is a tense drama about a complex relationship that balances upon an ambiguous truth. If she really isn't his daughter, she wonders if the love she feels for him is far more than just daughterly love, and he too wonders if his love for his daughter is more as a lover, than as a father. But he cannot allow himself to entertain those thoughts, because he knows deep down that it is wrong. What follows is a tug and pull scenario, which on one side has Anka trying to seduce her father in order to succumb to what she has always felt she needed from him, and on the other, a father trying to do right by his daughter, while at the same time questioning the strength of his own moral convictions. Did he hate Anka sleeping with other men as a protective father, or as a jealous lover?

Much of the dialogue in this part is exquisite and the subject matter is sensitively portrayed. The conversations between father and daughter are endlessly complex, and Kieślowski proves himself to be a master at capturing the melodrama of life and making it feel like life or death. But then again, so much is at stake for both Anka and Michal, if they cannot decide what their relationship should be, they may lose each other forever. Such is the complexity of this story, by the end of it the viewer is still waiting for a resolution, but it never comes, and just like the other parts in the Dekalog series, the viewer is left to ponder about that which is truth, and that which is false.

The colour palette in this instalment is similar to part two in that it feels dark and washed out. This isn't helped by the fact most of the scenes are shot in dimly lit flats or down in the basement of the building. There is also less of an emphasis on cinematic beauty. I get the sense this is a very important story to Kieślowski and he didn't want anything to detract from the story being told. But that said, as always, the high-definition transfer is impeccable with plenty of natural film grain present.

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