‘Thou Shalt Not Steal’
In the seventh episode Kieslowski poses the question of whether you can steal something that is already yours. The world we live in is so complex and there are simple thefts and subtle forms of theft. A young woman, Majka (Maja Barelkowska) is planning to leave for Canada and at the passport office she also wants to obtain a child’s passport and that requires the mother’s signed permission. Majka is Ania’s birth mother, which in the eyes of law could be challenged. The same evening a girl of six, Ania (Katarzyna Piwowarczyk), is crying in a nightmare and Majka attempts to comfort her. The effort ends in failure though when their mother Ewa (Anna Polony) takes charge. The father, Stefan (Wladyslaw Kowalski), holds and soothes Majka, even as Ewa is doing the same with Ania. Could the two women with a child in between live in amity? For a casual observer they represent a happy family but between the women there is an undercurrent of tension. Majka was underage when she became pregnant so Ewa steps in for all intents and purposes as the mother. Ewa wants the sole control over Ania. (The irony is that Ania is actually sired by a young teacher, Wojtek (Boguslaw Linda), from the school where Ewa is headmistress.)
On the following day Ewa takes Ania to a pantomime with all of the other mothers and kids. However, Majka manages to take the child out of the building and disappear. Ania is a pawn in the tug-of- war and is the ultimate loser. As with the first Dekalog 7 proves Kieslowski’s to write for and direct children. He presents an extremely believable and thoroughly tragic commentary on the Commandment that essentially related to material goods. Stealing money and stealing affection are on the same scale but in the eyes of law are not punished equally.
‘Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness’
In the woods close to a familiar apartment complex an old lady, Zofia (Maria Koscialkowska), jogs carefully and she exchanges a few words with her stamp-collecting neighbour and prepares for work. She is a professor of ethics within Warsaw University. That day as usual she takes class with Elzbieta (Teresa Marczewska), an American translator of Zofia’s work, sitting in.
During the session when Zofia comments on a true-life tale, and impresses upon her students the point that a child’s life is of paramount importance, Elzbieta feels compelled to relate another tale. In this one, set in 1943, a 6 year-old Jewish girl is about to be lodged with some willing Catholic protectors, since her parents are in the ghetto. Unfortunately, at the last minute, the man and woman renege on their promise, leaving the child to an uncertain fate. A tragic story without a doubt but Zofia seems shaken far more deeply than the situation warrants, suggesting a hidden connection (since she is of roughly the correct age for wartime exploits). The question is, how does Elzbieta know the story and why is she choosing now to have her say?
Advancing in years and well grounded in logic and ethics do not remove life’s incidents perhaps forgotten or glossed over. Elzbieta and Sofia meets accidentally and yet there are points in the past that connect them.
Motives and actions do not exactly match point to point. An action carries so many overtones, some of which are of contrary to what is done. This point is brought home to Sofia by her translator.