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Chesterton House

A Center for Christian Studies at Cornell

The Decalogue

Ten Commandments. Ten Films.

One work of art. One masterpiece. 

The Decalogue is a masterpiece of film-making written and directed by the Polish film genius, Krzysztof Kieslowski. I know, you're thinking, All the Chesterton House Movie Night films are great. But, truly (verily, verily) all the critics agree - every one of the 30 whose review of The Decologue I read agree: The Decalogue is magnificent cinema.

You remember the Ten Commandents, surely. We can recite them in classic King James prose:

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

Honour thy father and thy mother.

Thou shalt not kill.

Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Thou shalt not steal.

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

Thou shalt not covet.

So, 1 film about each commandment? Not exactly. Kieslowski gives us 10 stories that play with what it means to keep or understand the Commandments. All 10 stories take place in the same Warsaw apartment complex, and we see characters from the different stories passing through in the background. Kieslowski gives us a universe in which the lives of men and women, boys and girls, are intertwined in their common struggle. Keeping or breaking the Laws of God impacts the way they (and we) live together. But how are we helped by keeping God's Laws? How are we hurt by breaking them? Is it as easy to keep these Laws as it is to quote them? Does keeping them bring understanding to the struggle of life? Does breaking them bring freedom and joy in the escape of God's tyranny? And who can break only one at a time - if we steal are we not also coveting, if we murder are we not also taking to ourselves another god?

We will watch 2 of the 10 films this Friday night. Each film is about 1 hour in length. The series was initially produced for Polish television, so each segments fits the television time format... more or less. Then we will discuss what Kieslowski has presented to us in his amazing creation, The Decalogue.

-Steve Froehlich