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[Decalogue] Episode VII


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#1 (unregistered)

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Posted 08 January 2004 - 10:34 PM

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#2 Tim Willson

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Posted 21 January 2004 - 05:20 PM

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.

#3 Russell Lucas (unregistered)

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Posted 27 January 2004 - 12:28 PM

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.

#4 Russell Lucas (unregistered)

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Posted 28 January 2004 - 10:06 AM

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!

#5 Tim Willson

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Posted 17 March 2004 - 04:30 PM

(Much delayed contribution. :oops: )

Decalogue 7 is layered with violations of the 10 Commandments, but deals most directly with “Thou shalt not steal”. In a fascinating twist, Kieslowski uses relationships, rather than material possessions, to explore this sin. In the process, we discover a web of violations of five of the last six commandments.

22-year old Majke is expelled from school for reasons that aren’t clear, and she doesn’t seem interested in fighting it. Instead she pursues her dream of going to Canada (every person’s dream, no? smile.gif ). As it turns out, she doesn’t want to go alone.

Majke’s home life is more than she can bear, a daddy’s girl who never really grew up, and whose relationship with her mother has been poisoned by a dark secret. At age 16, Majke had an affair with her teacher, and her mother Ewa took the child as her own, even blackmailing the father (Wojtek) into silence. It is when Majke returns home that she becomes distraught by her “sister” Ania’s crying, and when she tries to intervene, Ewa responds with the first words we hear her say to her daughter: Go away.

In a poorly conceived plot, Majke kidnaps her sister/daughter, and they head to Wojtek’s home near Josefow (spelled Jozefow on a sign), but he greets Majke’s re-entry into his life warily; he even shows limited interest in his daughter. When Majke asks if he still thinks of her, he says no.

It becomes increasingly clear that Majke is desperately seeking love, asking for it from Wojtek and Ania, but needing it most from her mother. She is bitter about how Ewa treats Ania—especially compared with her upbringing (“Mother wasn’t so affectionate with me”). But mostly she is hurt by the knowledge that Ewa saw Majke’s teen pregnancy as an opportunity. After Majke’s birth, Ewa was not able to have more children, and her offer to raise Ania as her daughter was not the kindness it first seemed. Indeed, when Ania was six months old, Majke discovered her mother breast-feeding her grandchild.

Finished with school and with a Visa in hand for Canada, Majke is now ready for payback. She intends to force her mother – Ania’s mother of record – to sign a consent for travel. Her plans are vague and ill-formed, but she clearly wants to take her daughter to the other side of the world.

“I’m going out…to torture mother a bit,” she tells Wojtek.

When she phones home, she tells Ewa, “You must change everything. Ania must be mine. You’ve stolen my child. You’ve both stolen yourselves from me…everything.”

Who is the "both" who have stolen themselves? Ewa and Ania? Ewa and Stefan, her husband? (I think she blames Ewa and Ania, even though the 6-year old is clearly an innocent party.)

Later, Majke’s search for love becomes even more apparent:

QUOTE
Ania: “Majke”
Majke: call me mother.
Ania: “Majke”
Majke: say mother. Please say mother. Say mother to me.


Later, when Majke calls her mother a second time, the competing claims they have on Ania and their adversarial relationship are plain.

QUOTE
Ewa: You’ll both come home, we’ll sell the car and buy a flat… You can see her on Sundays. When I die she will be all yours.
Majke: I want your consent to go to Canada or you’ll never see us again. By the time I count to 5.


Majke counts to five—and hangs up just as Ewa says, “I agree.”

Wojtek, who earlier lied to Ewa and Stefan about Majke and Ania, begins helping them comb the countryside. As she hides from them, Majke continues her search for affirmation.

QUOTE
“Kiss me,” she says, and Ania does.
“Do you love me?” and Ania says “Yes.”


At the train station, Majke learns that there will be no train for two hours. She lies to the agent about her circumstances to gain sympathy, but as they wait for the train, they are discovered by her parents. Majke simply runs to the train and leaves. No one tries to stop her--though Ania briefly breaks away from her ‘mother’ to run a few steps--and they watch as the train takes her away.

So, sin begat more sin, and in the end, Majke gained an empty freedom but lost her daughter and her parents.
QUOTE
Russell Lucas wrote:
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!

Indeed. In fact, for the 16 years of life before Ania, Majke lived without those hugs, as her mother pined for another child. All the missing hugs of all those years are to be mourned.

In the end, taking (or keeping) from others made each of them poorer. This is a rich depiction of emptiness and longing, one of my favorites so far.

#6 MattPage

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Posted 01 June 2004 - 11:03 AM

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

#7 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 15 May 2011 - 11:38 AM

- 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.