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[Decalogue] Episode V

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Unfortunately, the tapes with Episodes 4 and 5 are still checked out of my area library. I'll join the discussion when able...

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Sorry for the delay. I'm going downstairs to rewatch this RIGHT NOW.

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I've only seen I-VI but this one is my favourite. Somehow it manages to take a totally unsympathetic character and question the morality of killing him, without resorting to making him seem sympathetic. I know that the death penalty in Poland was revoked shortly after this was shown, and Kieslowski's often given the credit. I don't know how much of that is justified, but its certainly a powerful film.

I'm a bit uncertain on the state of the death penalty over in the states. Am I right in thinking its administered in some states (such as Bush's Texas) and not in others? Which states are you guys in and how do you line up with your states views on this one? How does the Kieslowski film interact with your own opinions.

I guess we don't have the death penalty and I'm strongly anti it, so really this just backs up my own opinion. Has anyone shifted views because of this? Is there another film that works the other way?

Matt

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Wow! There are some loaded questions here that may break out into an interesting, yet controversial, discussion.

Yes, Texas does maintain the death penalty, although I personally wouldn

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Nice work, Tim. I like what you've written. I really like that observation that this part seems to be the only one actually concerned with our human law and its intersection with divine law.

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Started watching Dekalog last week; just took in Five last night. So far have read only the discussions for the episodes I've watched.

Great discussion everyone. I'm sometimes amazed at the level of analysis and insight here.

On Five, I'm surprised no one commented on the ubiquitous device of shooting through glass, often rippled or distorted glass, or glass that has had something splattered across it (water, yogurt). Reflections on these glass surfaces appear throughout, and in at least one scene someone (the theater clerk who says the theater is closed) primps with a mirror. Any thoughts on what this might mean here?

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On Five, I'm surprised no one commented on the ubiquitous device of shooting through glass, often rippled or distorted glass, or glass that has had something splattered across it (water, yogurt). Reflections on these glass surfaces appear throughout, and in at least one scene someone (the theater clerk who says the theater is closed) primps with a mirror. Any thoughts on what this might mean here?

Whoooo, boy. As soon as you start asking about Kieslowski and theme of reflections, glass, and water, you're taking your first step into a very long, twisted, and fascinating journey. I'd venture to say that this visual motif is the strongest throughout his work, serving myriad purposes. Isadorf's book explores this extensively.

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Kieslowksi gave his cinematographers a lot of room to experiment; he concentrated on actors and especially the editing process. But he also worked with some of the best cinematographers in Poland, including Slawomir Idziak for Decalogue: Five, who would put his beautiful lighting and heavy use of filters to good use in The Double Life of Veronique, Blue, and Black Hawk Down.

I'd have to check some of the literature on the subject, but I believe the general idea was to reflect the perspective of the killer, and by extrapolation his killers, who saw contemporary Poland in an ugly light. (Kieslowski was quoted as telling Idziak, You can shoot the film in piss green for all I care.)

And if that statement sounds odd, it's probably because you've only seen the Facets transfer. The new Kino and previous Artificial Eye disc looks like this:

user posted image

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It's almost embarrassing how much better this episode is (in terms of visual quality) than the others.

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: Started watching Dekalog last week; just took in Five last night

Just five? In one evening? Slacker.

wink.gif

Matt

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I know some of us can watch five hours of film in one evening, but not I. I've been polishing them off one at a time.

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SDG, I'd love to hear more thoughts on the other episodes you've seen. Does the series meet your expectations?

I'm still processing some of these, especially III, IV and VI, and I hope the discussion here stays active for awhile.

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Saw this for the first time last night. Must say it is my least favorite so far. Kieslowski did not succeed in conjuring and pity or sympathy in me for Jacek.

However, the episode did remind me of Prince Myshkin in Dostoevsky's "Idiot".

He tells a story in the first book and expresses that capital punishment is worse than the act of murder itself. Not a belief I agree with but interesting in light of the novels main carachter.

Saw many themes of childhood and innocence throughout this film as well.

The hint of childlike innocence and perhaps something still human in Jacek as he flings his milkshake at the girls standing outside the window was interesting.

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Firstly, I think I ought to declare my position on the death penalty. I suppose you could ally me with Piotr: I abhor it. Secondly, this post will be a respose to the question regarding information on death penalty as distinct to commentary on the film. I feel I have to watch it again before I can comment fully on it - so far (and I have seen up to Dekalog 6) it is the weightiest one in my view and demands very careful consideration.

I think people's opinions on the death penalty are influenced as much by factors of national and regional identity as they are by one's own personal beliefs. Further, I also believe that the majority of people's stance on the death penalty is not one that is carefully considered. It is understandable - for most people it is far far removed from their immediate realities. I give an example. In my first year at university I lived with a girl from Texas. She was (is) incredibly astute and I always admired her capacity for analysing literary and filmic texts. When asked why she agreed with the death penalty her reply was "I just do, it's not a big thing in Texas." Years later she admitted how little she had thought about it and had since changed her position, although was still very defensive about Texans who supported it. I hope that people here have a much more considered position on the death penalty than she used to. I believe that we are all responsible for allowing or not contesting laws that result in another's death.

As for figures in the US - Amnesty International is a good source for international statistics.

From 1990 to present, the country with the highest number of children (people under 18 at the time the crime was commited) executed is in the US.

Executions of children

In 2003, 84 per cent of all known executions took place in China, Iran, the USA and Viet Nam.

International statistics for 2003

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Looks like I'm a bit late for the party. Just now tackling the rest of the Deks I didn't see way back when. Watched Five and Six tonight.

In a way, Five seems the simplest, or least ambiguous, or something, of all the Dek films I've seen so far. Complicated (obscured?) by the triple focus in the story-telling at the outset: hard to get a handle on who's who, which story is when. But once you do, you've got an anti-capital punishment lawyer who's unsuccessful defending an obviously guilty client, who then witnesses his client being killed by the state and is confirmed in his revulsion against the death penalty.

I don't mean to be dismissive by that summary, only to comment that the kind of moral conundrums present in the other films don't seem to be present in quite the same way.

After watching the film I revisited the dates, and realized (as Alan points out) that Jacek commits the murder on the day before his twentieth birthday. Interesting detail.

Interesting to see the murder never rationalized, psychologized, melodramatized by plot conventions: he simply chose a cabbie and killed him. His previous acts that day seemed to speak of an agitated state, almost a nasty, restless boredom. Very ominous.

Interesting that the cabbie is a distinctly not nice person. The murder isn't sentimentalized by making him sweet and lovable.

Some passing responses to Tim's detailed post;

But Jacek is briefly transformed by the sight of two young girls in a caf
Edited by Ron

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(Sorry Ron, I couldn't follow your post because the quotes don't appear to be working. I know it's a pain to rectify but I would like to read this.)

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(Sorry Ron, I couldn't follow your post because the quotes don't appear to be working.  I know it's a pain to rectify but I would like to read this.)

Thanks for the heads up, gigi. All fixed now, I think!

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Hi Ron,

Loved your comments, but I'm on the road right now and don't have more than a minute for this thread just now; I also am without my notes and it's been awhile now since I've seen this. I won't be here much for a couple of weeks, but may get back to this in more depth later.

My four viewings may simply be because I have to work hard at this sometimes, and even then I can't readily answer some of your questions. This episode is deceptively complex, a seemingly straight-forward story that seems to raise more questions on repeated viewings.

For example, I puzzled over that light at the end of the field each time I saw it: surely it is there deliberately, but what can it be? It strikes one as a glint of sunshine off a windshield, except that there doesn't appear to be any road there. I wondered if it might be the workmen digging a grave, but there isn't any sign of a graveyard there either.

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I found this episode to be incredibly moving, but also rather disappointing as it simply states the blatantly obvious. We know that individuals kill and that societies and governments choose to ignore and break this commandment also, so what else is there?

Edited by The Invisible Man

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I'm just dipping my toes into the Decalogue pool (have now watched episodes 1-6). This one left the strongest impression - even stronger than Part 1, which is maybe the most emotional (of the first six anyway).

It's surprising that no one mentioned the aspect of the death penalty that came out very strongly by episode's end - its effect on the executioners (the individuals, and by extension, the society that supports capital punishment). Where Jacek's act is almost improvised - he starts with a rope, then a rod, and finishes the job with a rock - his execution is meticulously planned. The executioners are almost giddy with excitement at the prospect of a "fresh kill"; perhaps a defense mechanism by which they can sleep at night and still show up to do the job. And Jacek's final plea to live, his struggle against death, ignored by his executioners, as he ignored his victim's pleas.

Does Piotr "abhor" the system because it executed Jacek? Or because it eats away at the soul of the executioner?

Kieslowski did not succeed in conjuring and pity or sympathy in me for Jacek.

Was that Kieslowski's goal? I didn't feel much sympathy for him, either, but he was humanized by episode's end. I felt a heavy sadness at the entire episode, and that sense of regret that both deaths were senseless. I also love that Kieslowski presented the cabbie as a less-than-nice-guy ... the scene where he ogles, and offers a "ride" to, a young woman was very uncomfortable. Is he a pervert? A borderline pedophile? (The girl looked to be at least a teenager, but pretty young for a guy his age to be ogling.) He's generally nasty to others, including his neighbors. None of this justifies the murder, of course, and there's no sense of satisfaction when Jacek kills him. But is Kieslowski linking the cabbie's attitude toward young women to the death of Jacek's sister? And Jacek's playful behavior, by contrast, with the young girls at the window?

I flashed on DEAD MAN WALKING, for obvious reasons. Which, interestingly enough, caused me for the first time to think maybe the death penalty wasn't an entirely bad idea, necessarily. (Think I was reading against the grain?)

Funny you mention that, because I immediately flashed to DMW, too. And that film had the same effect on me - even though I'm generally anti-, Robbins' film felt too ambiguous, if that's possible - not sure if he went too far, or not far enough, in trying to humanize Penn's character. The 11th-hour confession convinced me the death penalty actually had a cleansing effect on him.

In contrast, Decalogue 5 convincingly portrayed the ill effects of killing, period ...

That's after only one viewing. Hopefully I'll rewatch this tonight, and maybe will rethink everything I just wrote.

Edited by Mark

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I am writing a paper on the implications of smoking throughout the Decalogue, does anyone have any views on the topic?

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Not off the top of my head as it's been a while since I saw them - sorry. If anything comes to me I'll let you know. Welcome BTW.

Mark - some nice observations - although at least as much about DMW as D5

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[bump]

We're discussing this film tonight at The Kindlings Muse too, so I'd like to invite guests at that event to check out this thread.

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