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[Decalogue] Episode V


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#1 (unregistered)

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Posted 01 November 2003 - 10:38 PM

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#2 Andrew

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Posted 07 November 2003 - 04:07 PM

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

#3 Russell Lucas (unregistered)

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Posted 10 November 2003 - 09:59 PM

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

#4 MattPage

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Posted 08 December 2003 - 09:53 AM

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 I know that the death penalty in Poland was revoked shortly after this was shown, and Kieslowski's often given the credit.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?

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#5 Thom

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Posted 22 December 2003 - 12:39 PM

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’t call it “Bush’s” state. I find it interesting that when there is something people do not like or do not agree with regarding Texas they call it “Bush’s” state. There are also many excellent facts and statistics regarding Texas and when those are stated no one calls it “Bush’s” Texas. They only want to associate what they consider the bad things with Bush. Texas has a low crime rate as well as one of the better educational systems in the nation.

Matt:
Which states are you guys in and how do you line up with your states views on this one?



The death penalty also exists in Illinois, which is where I reside. There are actually 38 states that support the death penalty, which is another reason I say, “What’s the point in ‘Bush’s Texas’?” This leaves only 14 that do not (including District of Columbia, of course the military maintains the death penalty, and Puerto Rico).

This was a powerful installment but I found the random, thoughtless but planned, brutal crime to be more powerful than the conviction and execution. That is not to say that I was emotionless over the death of the young man, I was not. The loss of any person’s life is an emotional, sad experience for me. This is only compounded by my commitment to Christ since the lives taken could be lives spent in an eternity without Christ.

I kept asking myself during the brutal murder of the taxi driver, “What is this guy thinking?” “Why is he doing this?” “What has hurt him so badly that he would take it out on another human?” When the attempt to strangle him did not work get gets out of the car and looks him right in the eye and beats him with a tire iron. Then when he tried to dump the body, it moves and he beats him with a rock. He was given the opportunity to stop, to keep from taking this man’s life. He chose to murder him at least three separate times.

This film did not make me more sympathetic to the thoughtless crime or the penalties for such an act. I cannot say that I absolutely support the death penalty but I am not against it. I support my state in its decision to administer the death penalty as a punishment for the defined crimes committed by a guilty party. The idea of innocence and guilt in a death penalty sentence has more to do with the justice system and its possible corruption than it has to do with the death penalty as a possible sentence. Reform is a whole separate, convoluted issue.

Matt:
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?



Dancer in the Dark was a film that had a different affect on me (spoilers ahead). You felt for this character differently than the man in Decalogue: Five. She was taken advantage of. She was innocent. But I think I was more disturbed by the fact that she didn’t say anything. She didn’t defend herself in the least. She had a son to think about and she was selfish but attempted to be portrayed as strong. She was not a hero and it was not strength that kept her silent. But her sentence in the end was emotionally devastating.

#6 Tim Willson

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Posted 25 February 2004 - 04:37 PM

QUOTE
“The law should not imitate nature, the law should improve nature. People invented the law to govern their relationships.
The law determined who we are and how we live. We either observe it or break it. Their freedom is limited only by the freedom of others. Punishment means revenge in particular when it aims to harm but it does not prevent crime.
For whom does the law avenge? In the name of the innocent? Do the innocent make the rules?”


So opens Decalogue V, a curious collection of statements about “the law” given that the whole series is about God’s law. It might be an interesting commentary on the Ten Commandments, except the claim that “People invented the law” shows that Piotr Balicki has the laws of Poland in mind.

The young idealistic lawyer is a fierce opponent of capital punishment, and makes an impassioned appeal against the death sentence of his client, Jacek Lazar. One of the judges on the appeals court tells him later it was the best speech against capital punishment he had heard in years… but that the sentence was inevitable.

“You are too sensitive for this profession,” he says.

Jacek is a deeply troubled young man, verging on psychopathic in his treatment of others. On the eve of his 20th birthday, he wanders through the streets of Warsaw. Both bored and spiteful, he chases birds away from the pigeon lady, knocks over a fellow patron using a public urinal, and drops rocks from an overpass onto cars passing beneath.

But Jacek is briefly transformed by the sight of two young girls in a café. Teasingly, he throws food against the window at them. We may infer that he sees in them the laughter of his little sister Mary, who was 12 years old when Jacek’s friend killed her with a tractor after they (Jacek and his friend) had been drinking. As gloom settles over him again, Jacek turns away from the window and Kieslowski presents a monochromatic view of the action, sometimes from Jacek’s POV, sometimes from the viewer’s. We glimpse his humanity once more as he takes a damaged photo of his sister (stolen from his mother) to a photographer for enlargement and possible repair.

Back at the apartment complex, Waldemar Rykowski prepares his taxi for the day. Dorota and Andrzej Geller from Decalogue 2 try to get a ride. Dorota seems to be quite pregnant, and they may even need to get to the hospital to give birth. Rykowski brushes them off, telling them to wait… but then intentionally drives off without giving them a ride. (Not clear why… does Rykowski know something about Dorota’s earlier indiscretion? Is there another dispute between them that I missed in #2?)

Soon after, Rykowski is giving Jacek a lift, and a little way down the road they pass ‘the watcher’ (Artur Borcis), working as part of a road repair crew. Jacek seems fearful of his gaze, shrinking back in his seat as a dark filter once again drains color from the scene.

Jacek kills the cabbie. He strangles him as they drive down a muddy country lane, then smashes his head with a rock, pausing only briefly when the cabbie says “Please!” The car radio is playing a song about a brave lion, and Jacek rips it from the dash and throws it away. Eight months later, despite his lawyer’s best efforts, he is hanged.

The film ends as it began, with the words of Piotr Balicki. However, these are not the reasoned tones of legal discourse, but the impassioned, white-knuckled frustrations of a man parked alone beside a field, spraying saliva as he rants to no-one in particular:

I abhor it.
I abhor it.
I abhor it.
I abhor it.
I abhor it.
I abhor it.
I abhor it.
I abhor it.
I abhor it.
I abhor it.

It was on my fourth viewing that I started to appreciate this gloomy episode. And I’m left with a few questions that will lead me to at least one more viewing (such as why Rykowski is rude to his customers/neighbors, the Geller’s).

An early scene shows rags dropping onto Waldemar Rykowski’s head, possibly by Jacek, or maybe by the Geller’s. Of all the episodes I have seen so far, this one includes the least action at the apartment complex, and the few scenes there are involve the boorish behaviour of the victim. We may infer that Jacek and his lawyer are tenants, along with his victim.

Decalogue V is filled with echoes.

-things drop: rags, stones, Jacek’s body. (In many episodes, Kieslowski uses spills, but here he uses falling objects to emphasize damage and brokenness.)
-taxi fares are treated badly: once by Rykowski, once by Jacek (who lies to the driver about where a group of people were headed)
-regrets: Lawyer Piotr Balicki tells the judge “I was there (at the café)…maybe I could have done something.” And Jacek knows he could have helped avoid his sister’s death. “…if only she could have stayed alive, things would be different. Perhaps I wouldn’t have left home…”
-strangling: Jacek kills and is killed with a rope.
-taking from his mother: Jacek takes her daughter (is complicit in her death), steals the photo of her First Communion. Then he asks Balicki to seek permission from his mother for him to be given the third and final place—her place—in the family grave with Mary and his father. But he also asks the lawyer to return the photo he had stolen from her.

Another thread I’m interested in following is the chronology of the series. I’m not sure if it was intended to have chronological integrity like this, but hints of it have emerged:

Decalogue One – before Christmas (Pawel gets his Christmas present early as winter sets in and freezes the ice)
Decalogue Two – Dorota Geller is early in her pregnancy (appears to be due around mid-March, judging from Decalogue Five)
Decalogue Three - Christmas Eve… and Pawel’s father makes a brief dazed appearance (fails to recognize Santa)
Decalogue Four – Anka references Easter Monday
Decalogue Five – Crime committed March 16, 1987, execution November 27, 1987 (although Balicki sits in a summer-ish looking field at the end).
Decalogue Six – Spring? Coats and snow, if I remember correctly.
Decalogue Seven – Summer clothing. A visa to visit Canada is dated March 12, 1987 to October 30, 1987, and it appears to be set in late March.
Decalogue Eight – Not seen yet.
Decalogue Nine – Not seen yet.
Decalogue Ten – Not seen yet.

#7 Russell Lucas (unregistered)

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Posted 01 March 2004 - 06:08 PM

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.

#8 SDG

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Posted 18 May 2004 - 12:22 PM

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?

#9 Overstreet

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Posted 18 May 2004 - 12:31 PM

QUOTE
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.

#10 Doug C

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Posted 18 May 2004 - 01:15 PM

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


#11 SoNowThen

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Posted 18 May 2004 - 01:54 PM

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

#12 MattPage

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Posted 19 May 2004 - 02:33 AM

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

Just five? In one evening? Slacker.
wink.gif

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#13 SDG

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Posted 19 May 2004 - 12:29 PM

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.

#14 Tim Willson

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Posted 19 May 2004 - 02:40 PM

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.

#15 Visigoth

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Posted 02 February 2005 - 12:47 PM

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.

#16 gigi

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Posted 09 February 2005 - 05:14 PM

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

#17 Ron Reed

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 01:52 AM

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;

QUOTE(Tim Willson @ Feb 25 2004, 01:37 PM)
But Jacek is briefly transformed by the sight of two young girls in a café. Teasingly, he throws food against the window at them. We may infer that he sees in them the laughter of his little sister Mary, who was 12 years old when Jacek’s friend killed her with a tractor after they (Jacek and his friend) had been drinking.

I didn't see the food throwing as teasing: it seemed just as nasty and borderline sociopathic as his other behaviour, though it's tone shifts once they girls react in innocence and smiles. At least the way I saw it.

QUOTE
Back at the apartment complex, Waldemar Rykowski prepares his taxi for the day. Dorota and Andrzej Geller from Decalogue 2 try to get a ride. Dorota seems to be quite pregnant, and they may even need to get to the hospital to give birth. Rykowski brushes them off, telling them to wait… but then intentionally drives off without giving them a ride. (Not clear why… does Rykowski know something about Dorota’s earlier indiscretion? Is there another dispute between them that I missed in #2?)

Thanks for tagging them for us! Good eye for detail. It's too long since I saw Two to remember even what it's about. Guess I'll have to rewatch that one.

QUOTE
Soon after, Rykowski is giving Jacek a lift, and a little way down the road they pass ‘the watcher’ (Artur Borcis), working as part of a road repair crew. Jacek seems fearful of his gaze, shrinking back in his seat as a dark filter once again drains color from the scene.

Again, good catch! Thanks for identifying "the watcher" - I'm eager to find him in the other films, now. Is that him in white with the suitcases in Nubmer Six? In any case, the road crew guy (surveyor, perhaps?) looking at Jacek was very strongly accented in the film, wasn't it? Seemed to me to suggest that that guy might later have been a witness connecting the taxi driver and the killer, that led to the conviction. I suppose I drew that conclusion because of the way the camera heightened that section: I suppose it could rather be that the camera was just highlighting the presence of the watcher, who may very well not have played a part in the legal procedings. (Interesting how much the normal "crime story" details of the trial, evidence, arrest, all those elements, are simply ignored here. That's not Kieslowski's emphasis or interest. Though I wonder what relation this film bears to A SHORT FILM ABOUT KILLING, which I take to be a longer version of this same story? Am I right? Does it give more attention to the forensics? Does the added length strenghten or dilute the story?)

QUOTE
Jacek kills the cabbie. He strangles him as they drive down a muddy country lane, then smashes his head with a rock, pausing only briefly when the cabbie says “Please!”

Indeed, as someone else on this trhead remarked, three separate times Jacek chooses to murder the cabbie. The difficulty of the killing reminded me of something Hitchcock said about how hard it is to kill someone, which was very much on my mind when I saw BLOOD SIMPLE, as well. Anybody remember that quote, or know a source?

QUOTE
The car radio is playing a song about a brave lion, and Jacek rips it from the dash and throws it away.

I think I would have done the same. In Dek6, the old woman is watching Polish TV, and I begin to think I might have committed murder myself if I were continually exposed to such programming.

QUOTE
The film ends as it began, with the words of Piotr Balicki. However, these are not the reasoned tones of legal discourse, but the impassioned, white-knuckled frustrations...

Good point.

What did you make of that "star" of light on the far side of the field that opens that scene? I'm not much of a symbol-spotter, so I'm not looking for direct "meaning." I did feel like the movie finally showed us something, somplace of beauty after looking at a lot of dreariness. "Piss green" indeed. (Though has anyone ever seen green piss? Not I. Guess it's a Polish thing.)

QUOTE
It was on my fourth viewing that I started to appreciate this gloomy episode....
Holy mackerel, you're a devotee!! I'm amazed at myself investing ten hours watching these babies: you're spending four hours on just one!? Holy smokes.

QUOTE
And I’m left with a few questions that will lead me to at least one more viewing (such as why Rykowski is rude to his customers/neighbors, the Geller’s).

Were they the ones who hadn't paid for their vegetables? I thought so, but my wife corrected me, saying that was someone else.

QUOTE
-regrets: Lawyer Piotr Balicki tells the judge “I was there (at the café)…maybe I could have done something.” And Jacek knows he could have helped avoid his sister’s death. “…if only she could have stayed alive, things would be different. Perhaps I wouldn’t have left home…”

I think I found this the most interesting aspect of the episode. Piotr's impulse to assume part of the guilt for something he clearly didn't contribute to strikes me as an expression of that same (over?-)sensitivity that the judge notes in him, and somewhat wrong-headed: still, what if he had intervened in some way? Would Jacek have done as he did on another day, if he were deterred that day by someone intervening in his life? Seems unlikely, but the question seems a legitimate one. And when Jacek fastens on the idea that he might not have done as he did, turned out as he did, if his sister had not died in the accident (in which he was complicit) also seems revealing of character - he's obsessing on causes, maybe excuses, for what happened, that may be as inexplicable to the killer as it is to us as witensses. But it also seems plausible: such an event might push someone in the wrong direction, or it might be that his more-or-less sociopathic behaviour is how he is "wired," regardless of whether his sister had died or not. (Okay, I'm starting to think this episode presents a few more quandaries than I first noticed.) And certainly a theme that emerges in the series as a whole is the interconnectedness of all these lives: we are asked at least to consider whether things would have come out differently had a sister not died, had a young lawyer spoken to an obviously troubled young man, had a woman and a nineteen-year-old boy not caught a bus, etc, etc. Indeed, it's interesting to note the "improbable" coincidence that the man who witnessed Jacek wind a rope around his hand in the cafe ends up being his defence attorney later on: again, a suggestion of something like fate, some sort of hand shaping people's stories. Or not.

QUOTE
he asks Balicki to seek permission from his mother for him to be given the third and final place—her place—in the family grave with Mary and his father.

Yes, that was a really unsettling element. At first it seemed very human of him to want to be buried with his family, then quiite terrible that he essentially wanted to take his mother's gravesite! (Quandaries, ambiguities... )

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?)

Edited by Ron, 08 July 2005 - 09:00 PM.


#18 gigi

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 04:58 AM

(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.)

#19 Ron Reed

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 09:00 PM

QUOTE(gigi @ Jul 8 2005, 01:58 AM)
(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.)

View Post



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

#20 Tim Willson

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Posted 09 July 2005 - 03:26 AM

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.