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[Decalogue] Episode V

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A 2005 Iranian movie called Day Break covers similar territory as Decalogue V. Film Movement distributed it in the US, and it's a Watch Instantly title on Netflix. The movie is about the Islamic practice that when a capital offense has been committed, the family of the victim has the right to either condemn or forgive the offender. It's a very good example of how to build suspense without having a lot of action.

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For what it's worth, we ran out of time to do more than mention Decalogue 5 much at the Kindlings event, so alas, no discussion inspired.

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- Ok, there's no doubt in my mind no matter what anyone says. The tramp/nurse/bus driver/boat rower and now construction worker is an angel. The only time in this entire episode that Jacek looks like he has a twinge of conscience is when he makes eye contact with the construction worker (watcher). I actually had to pause and rewind to watch this again - the watcher actually (very imperceptibly) shakes his head at Jacek, signaling "no." No one else noticed this?

- I believe the death penalty is right against what I'd like to believe if I had a choice (basically because the Bible supports it). The power of the sword is given to the government for a reason. There is a place for the death penalty, and yet the potential for injustice is so incredibly great that I have a hard time accepting it. I say this as one who is about to soon become a full fledged Criminal Defense trial attorney. I cannot imagine what it would be like to have to defend a client against the death penalty, much less lose (thinking it was your fault) and then go and personally watch the execution. Whoa. You probably have to as a matter of conscience though.

- This was a powerful episode. And yet, I wonder what the episode would have been like if the mode of execution was more sympathetic, sanitized, and quiet. If there's injustice, there's injustice no matter if the condemned is dragged kicking and screaming to his death by mean police officers OR if the condemned is drugged into a state of submissive complacency and quietly put to sleep forever by a kindly government nurse by a quick and painless lethal injection. I just watched Never Let Me Go recently, and the death scenes for Ruth and Tommy left a lot of viewers cold. They were sad and quiet death/execution scenes, unlike the tragedy of Jacek trembling in terror as he attempts to take that one last drag from his cigarette. Heck, the execution scene burned into my brain as a, well probably as a 10 year old, will always still be James Cagney's in Angels With Dirty Faces.

- And yet, I'm not criticizing the episode for making the execution emotionally difficult for the viewer. It should be. I pray that I will never have to see that happen to anyone. I can't help identifying with Piotr, and I think his analysis of the wisdom of criminal penalties as deterrents is a subject worth exploring (perhaps even more than the death penalty alone). Punishment in Criminal Law is a whole subject unto itself. Societies and Legislatures write sentencing laws for reasons of deterrence, protection, rehabilitation, and sometimes retribution. Sounded like Piotr believed any punishment as a deterrent was really just a punishment as retribution/revenge.

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- Ok, there's no doubt in my mind no matter what anyone says. The tramp/nurse/bus driver/boat rower and now construction worker is an angel. The only time in this entire episode that Jacek looks like he has a twinge of conscience is when he makes eye contact with the construction worker (watcher). I actually had to pause and rewind to watch this again - the watcher actually (very imperceptibly) shakes his head at Jacek, signaling "no." No one else noticed this?

I've heard a response to the watcher in a few places (maybe even on this board somewhere): When Kieslowski made The Decalogue, the political climate in Poland precluded him from having any overt religious symbols or social commentary--part of the reason he switched from documentaries to fictional stories in the first place--so he couldn't "say" the watcher was an angel or God or anything like that, even though the accumulated evidence of the character points directly toward just that interpretation.

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I've heard a response to the watcher in a few places (maybe even on this board somewhere): When Kieslowski made The Decalogue, the political climate in Poland precluded him from having any overt religious symbols or social commentary--part of the reason he switched from documentaries to fictional stories in the first place--so he couldn't "say" the watcher was an angel or God or anything like that, even though the accumulated evidence of the character points directly toward just that interpretation.

Great point - I hadn't thought of that. As I keep watching films from outside my own culture, I've found that understanding that culture (if it was enslaved under Communism at the time, etc.) is fundamental to understanding the film. It's an elementary hermeneutic principle, but it's one I keep forgetting about.

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