Is decalogue relevant in this time and age? In the ten part series Dekalog, Krzysztof Kieslowski examines the dilemma of fundamental sin in the lives of ordinary Warsaw citizens. Note the geographical microcosm where the episodes take place. Poland with its checkered history under oppressive regimes one after the other, has always been a staunch support for the Church be it of Catholic or Hebraic persuasion. The Ten Commandments refer to the relationship between man and God and sin being as clear as any disruption in the above equation. Dekalog has a strong storyline and characters well fleshed out and is often brilliant but uneven, which however should not deter us from considering the film as a masterpiece. The episodes were meant for TV.
The first of Kieslowski’s 10-part series, Dekalog 1
“I Am the Lord God”,
Krzysztof (Henryk Baranowski) is a scientist who puts his faith in science and logic to govern daily life (Decalogue I). He brings up his young son Pawel (Wojciech Klata) in an apartment block flat. In the absence of a mother their home is dedicated to technology: on assorted computers they can plot out their lives, perform calculations and even, thanks to Pawel, control appliances around the apartment. He has long since lapsed as a Catholic. Pawel has a female role-model in his aunt Irena (Maja Komorowska. For a 11 year old Pawel life and its spiritual meaning is of no interest. Life is wonderful as long as he’s able to go skating.
His Christmas present is a new pair of ice skates and, as the ice looks thick, Pawel’s keen to try them out. One evening the boy does not return home.
The loss of a child is always devastating but given the age and the potential of such a boy with so much in him to flower we can feel the waste and tragedy and it is in the generation of these emotions that Dekalog 1 succeeds. In such poignancy of futlity and despair how strong are analytical methods and reasons, or what we call a scientific temper?