The Decalogue is a series of ten films loosely based on the ten commandments.
At a glance, it would be easy to write off Krzysztof Kieslowski’s The Decalogue as religious propaganda or something similar, but that does not seem to be the intention. This is not a heavy handed approach to religion, or even morality. Though there are ten films in the series, each film does not explicitly follow a single commandment. In fact, the series focuses more on people than religion. The films are simple but powerful and though originally shot for Polish television, they are shot beautifully. The quality of the picture is not amazing and the translation seems a bit loose at times, but once you find yourself wrapped up in the story, you likely won’t even notice these things.
We see a young, aspiring lawyer named Piotr (Krzysztof Globisz) is taking the bar exam. Cut to Warsaw where a young man, Jacek (Miroslaw Baka) is wandering around looking for an empty taxi stand. He pulls awful pranks on people as he wanders around, asks for a photo of a young girl to be enlarged, gets a bite to eat while looking at some rope and a large stick in his bag. He finally finds an empty cab on the street and lies to a couple that wishes to share the cab. The cab driver (Jan Tesarz) has spent the morning doing nothing but ogling a young girl and driving off as a joke when people are about to get in his taxi. Jacek tells the driver to drive to a secluded area where he brutally kills him for seemingly no reason. Jacek then ends up facing the death penalty, futilely represented by Piotr.
I had a hard time with Decalogue V even though it is the only film that seems to take a firm stance of what is right and wrong. While neither the cab driver or Jacek are shown to be good people, the lawyer makes his point that all life is sacred and he does not agree with the death penalty, which is obviously Kieslowski’s view as well. It’s not that I disagree, it’s just that the film makes both the killer and the victim completely unlikable making it more difficult to choose a viewpoint. Even though the cab driver is not a good person, his life still has worth as a human being, right? That is the purpose of Decalogue V. This film starts off particularly confusing since it introduces three seemingly unconnected characters, but it soon makes its point apparent but never hits the same marks that past films in the series do.
I give it 4 out of 5.
Decalogue V was extended and remade as the film A Short Film About Killing.