Krzysztof Kieślowski’s ten-hour, ten-part interpretation of The Ten Commandments unfolded in 1989 as a drama series on Polish television. But it was too unwieldy for anything outside a limited theatrical run in the US. The film will finally be shown again in full and in 35mm at Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival from October 24 to 26 in New York. And “Decalogue” also looks headed for Criterion release.
One of the Polish master’s great works, “The Decalogue” explores moral crises in Solidarity-era Poland across ten discrete films with their own visual styles. Kieślowski originally wanted a different director for each short before deciding that the entire omnibus should be his to direct.
When “The Decalogue” found its way back to the US in 2000, Roger Ebert wrote: “The 10 films are not philosophical abstractions but personal stories that involve us immediately; I hardly stirred during some of them. After seeing the series, Stanley Kubrick observed that Kieslowski and [co-writer] Piesiewicz ‘have the very rare ability to dramatize their ideas rather than just talking about them.’ Quite so. There is not a moment when the characters talk about specific commandments or moral issues. Instead, they are absorbed in trying to deal with real-life ethical challenges.”
At the Wexner Center for the Arts in Ohio, Criterion Collection producers Curtis Tsui and Kim Hendrickson revealed that the Criterion is indeed working on a proper “Decalogue” box set. (Their Blu-ray release of Kieślowski’s Three Colors trilogy is a beautiful must-own.)