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[Decalogue] Episode VII

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I have been sadly neglectful of this discussion for months. My wife and two youngest will be away for a week, so I'm going to get back after The Decalogue, starting with this episode (#7), this weekend.

Unless I'm badly off-base, I think many of us find this a significant and challenging series but have lacked time rather than interest. I'll do my part to correct the absence of comment here.

I can't promise anything profound, but I'll be grateful for any responses generated.

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As an aside, this is certainly a creative way to illustrate the sin of theft. It goes to the heart of what destruction is wrought by seizing something that "belongs" to someone else, even though our own conception of the sin is so closely aligned with the theft of material objects or money. Of course, if you gave me a list of the Commandments fresh and asked me to assign one to this chapter, I'd go first for "Honor Your Father and Mother," thinking of the double ways in which that command are implicated here.

As another aside, this gets me thinking again about the way that we perceive the series based on the assignment of Commandments to individual parts. I know that Facets did this in their releases, and the menu screens from one of the DVD releases (which one, Doug? the R2 Warner?) includes the "assigned" Commandments as well. I'm just not sure I've ever seen anything to suggest that Kieslowski and Piesiewicz made that kind of connection. They may have set out with that kind of structure as a starting point, but did they ever connect the dots in the same fashion that the films' video release companies have? I wonder whether they were filmed out-of-order and then put in order to align roughly with the Commandments, or how the organization went.

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I liked this one better than the last time I saw it.

Majka does use the language of theft here on at least two occasions. The first mention comes when her former teacher-lover tries to tell Majka that her situation isn't so bad because she hasn't stolen or killed (a reminder to me both of the enumeration of the Commandments in the song sung by the younger brother in Decalogue Ten and in the common wishy-washy moral reasoning people often use, e.g., "I'm not such a bad person; I've never killed anyone."). In response, Majka wonders aloud whether she can be guilty of stealing something that belongs to her in the first place. Later, she outright accuses her mother of stealing her child.

Still, it isn't really Annika that Majka wants or feels entitled to. It's the love and care of her family-- the security that comes from knowing that they'd sacrifice anything for her well-being. She'll never know that feeling now because it is clear to her (and to her father) that the supposed sacrifice made by her mother was done to serve her own interest and desires as much as to preserve Majka's youth and academic standing. And I think it is clear that Majka would, at this point in her life, make an abysmal parent. She's preoccupied with possessing Annika to deprive her mother and induce in her the emptiness and loneliness she feels in her own life. Even her former boyfriend bears no illusions concerning her fitness, and his valid concerns spur him to call the mother and disclose Majka's location. When Majka says that Annika is "all she's got," it is less a statement concerning her emotional connection to her daughter than a concession that she holds nothing else of value to her mother.

Why is stealing a sin? Certainly, any meaningful social organization will require that stealing, like murder and certain types of lying, be punished. Apart from that, though, in the life of a believer, stealing is a violation of God's law because it is an explicit rejection of the premise that God's provision is sufficient. If God provides you only one child, but you wanted more, you may not take what He has provided for someone else to satisfy your own desires. The prohibition of stealing, if followed, encourages a mind satisfied with what it has. When we allow ourselves to pursue our desires with no concern for the provision made for others (and belonging to them by God's will) we set in motion justifications for any number of sins. Not surprisingly, we see several characters lie here. Majka tells lies that are grounded in truth (she can give the child's mother's consent to travel), the boyfriend lies about her whereabouts, and even the station agent lies to protect a girl running from a bloke. Stealing rots our interactions from the inside out.

It's so disheartening to see Majka's parents react with such relief and joy when they have Annika in their arms again. We palpably feel Majka's pain that they do not seem to register that they have got their other daughter back, too. How different things could have turned out if only they had ever thought to hug Majka first!

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(Much delayed contribution. :oops: )

Decalogue 7 is layered with violations of the 10 Commandments, but deals most directly with

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I've just no really wanted to watch any of the remaining 4 episodes that I still had to see until the weekend, when I finally got around to seeing D7. And I must say its one of my favourites, for some reason I really enjoyed it(one of the guides I have to Kieslowski slates it) and it gave me more enthusiasm to catch up on the rest of the series. Not really sure why, but there you go.

(Wow how's that for in depth analysis!)

Matt

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- The sixth, seventh and eighth commandments are the simplest and most concise. "Thou shalt not steal" needs no further elaboration or explanation (unlike bearing false witness or coveting). "Stealing" is always wrong. There are no distinctions to make with stealing (unlike justified use of lethal force v. murder, or telling a lie may sometimes have nothing to do with the ninth commandment and actually be the right thing to do). To steal is to hurt another person.

- But suddenly "thou shalt not steal" does mean a whole lot more than how I've usually thought about it if it is possible to steal things other than material objects. To steal something is to deprive another of that which they rightfully possess or are entitled to. It causes me to pause to acknowledge that even love or freedom can be stolen from another. A child is naturally owed love from her mother - but that love can be stolen and withheld. It sounds like Ewa withheld motherhood from Majka in more ways than one - she didn't love her like a mother, and she didn't let her be a mother to her own child. This has hurt the two of them, and affected/hurt everyone else around them. Now Majka decides to steal Ania from Ewa out of revenge. Looks like doing so will only hurt the three of them, and everyone else again.

- It's hard to decide what to make out of Wojtek. He did take advantage of Majka's youth in the past, but it sounds like he tried to make it right and Ewa stopped him. Now he's reserved and hardened, but somehow also good. He seems to be considering either welcoming in or helping Majka - but once she gets hysterical trying to command Ania to address her as mother, and once he sees Ania's nightmares, you see him change his mind (or increase in resolve if his mind didn't need changing). The last time we see him in the episode, he desperately trying to prevent impending tragedy.

- Pretty dark episode. Apparently that was "the Watcher" in the background at the train-station, but technical/editing problems make it hard for us to see him. The only real "light" in this dark episode is the imperturbability and smile of six-year-old Ania. Her love and unquestioning acceptance of everyone in her family is something worth protecting and caring for, and perhaps something Majka is dangerously willing to sacrifice.

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