Jump to content


[Decalogue] Episode I


  • Please log in to reply
36 replies to this topic

#1 (unregistered)

(unregistered)
  • Guests

Posted 22 September 2003 - 08:04 PM

--content deleted--

#2 MattPage

MattPage

    Bible Films Geek.

  • Member
  • 4,193 posts

Posted 26 September 2003 - 02:48 AM

I watched this again on Wednesday Night. I didn't really take it in as much as I'd hoped, but one thing I noticed I thought might be critical (though I'm planning to double check). When Pavel''s father does his calculation as to whether the ice can hold Pavel, he gets an answer saying the ice can take 247(ish)kg/m^2 . Now The father seems to assume that because Pavel is less than 247kg he will be alright, but in fact this is wrong, because PAvel's area on the ice is not 1m^2,but a much smaller number at best 50 cm^2. So the weight that the ice can take

Long story short - the computer does not fail, nor does the weather do something unexpected. What we are dealing with is human error.
Not sure how to interpret this in light of the film though!

What does anyone think. Was this actually intentional by Kieslowski, or was it just an error? Is the point perhaps more to do with the fact that we usually put too much reliance on ourselves than on God?

#3 MattPage

MattPage

    Bible Films Geek.

  • Member
  • 4,193 posts

Posted 29 September 2003 - 02:36 AM

Ha,

Double checked yesterday and it is 279kg/cm^2 - so the calculation is right. Gutted, I thought I'd brought something new to the table then. :oops:

Matt

#4 Russell Lucas (unregistered)

Russell Lucas (unregistered)
  • Guests

Posted 29 September 2003 - 11:37 AM

Materialistic computer-building dad defines death in coldly clinical terms. Son is dissatisfied with his father's denial of the soul but shares his enthusiasm for calculation and experiential knowledge. Son dies after dad's analytical and experiential judgment is found lacking. Dad returns to symbols of church and cries out in agony.

How is this not one of those stultifyingly punitive morality plays they run routinely on PAX or Cornerstone TV?

#5 Andrew

Andrew

    And a good day to you, sir!

  • Member
  • 2,160 posts

Posted 29 September 2003 - 12:02 PM

I'll add a few comments to the conversation:

1) A poignant, haunting film - thanks for choosing it, Alan.

2) I'd never seen the film before, until watching it twice in the past 2 weeks in anticipation of this discussion. I'd heard however that there's a silent watching figure appearing throughout the episodes, obviously the man sitting beside the fire. I'm assuming he represents God or a Christ-figure, watching the goings-on below. Striking how he stares into the camera in the opening moments, sheds tears at Pawel's death, and is absent at the drowning/rescue scene.

3) Pawel - what a delightful individual! So inquisitive of nature (I loved how he tilted his head like the pigeon), technology, and life's meaning; so loving and compassionate (his tears over the dead dog); so brilliant. Obviously, this made the ending all the more painful.

4) What are the gods of 'you shall have no other gods before me'? - The ones I see in this film are technology (as stated above) and self, as seen in the lecture where the father discusses being able to make a computer in his own image, one with reason and feelings.

5) Theodicy - Perhaps it's just me and my perennial struggles with the purpose of suffering, but what struck me more than the breaking of the first commandment was the death of an 'innocent' for his father's pride. The father despite his failings was an eminently sympathetic character, and I could empathize with his anger as he pushed over the altar. Again, the absence of the silent figure at the drowning was striking.

I could go on, but I'll stop here. I have a question or two about things in the film I didn't quite understand, but I'll save those for later.

#6 Russell Lucas (unregistered)

Russell Lucas (unregistered)
  • Guests

Posted 29 September 2003 - 04:05 PM

The way it's described, that does make it sound like a movie-of-the-week. However, I think there's a lot more subtleness and art in the story than that. There's certainly a lot more ambiguity.



I agree wholeheartedly. I think the film is far from a cautionary tale, though that sort of reading comes reflexively. I don't profess materialism the way that Krzysztof does, but I'm not sure my thought process would have looked much different to the outside viewer. He doesn't just rely on his computer, remember, but he also does what I would have done-- he checks the ice physically. It's hard to fault his process, and we don't know whether his sister, Pawel's aunt, would have handled the matter any differently were she the one in charge. And if K. had been a believer, and had either prayed for his son's safety or explicitly acknowledged the existence of a transcendental soul and supernatural forces, would the result have changed, or merely the consolation in the loss?

#7 Tim Willson

Tim Willson

    Member

  • Member
  • 1,093 posts

Posted 29 September 2003 - 04:07 PM

I'd heard however that there's a silent watching figure appearing throughout the episodes, obviously the man sitting beside the fire. I'm assuming he represents God or a Christ-figure, watching the goings-on below. Striking how he stares into the camera in the opening moments, sheds tears at Pawel's death, and is absent at the drowning/rescue scene.

I thought I read somewhere that this figure was edited-in at the last minute and does not represent a literal god-figure (or angelic witness), but is an anthropomorphic representation of truth, just as "wisdom" appears in the Old Testament.



In his commentary included with the new DVD release, Roger Ebert comments on the 'silent watcher,' who appears in 8 of the 10 films, I think. Early observers were quick to assign some sort of Christ-figure attribute to him, Ebert reports, but quotes Kiezlowski as having denied that the character was figurative in that way at all. Apparently, he was just an afterthought who became a recurring image of the series... much like a neighbor becomes a fixture on your street, observing your life without really being in it.

Perhaps Kiezlowski tossed him in--then kept him in--without a lot of thought, or at least without any intended metaphorical significance... but the character plays out on screen differently to me. This silent, mysterious stranger shares the viewer's place as spectator of the other lives, even making eye contact with us through the camera. He watches events with a resigned weariness, almost fatalism, rather than curiosity, and his absence from the lake at the key moments of recovery--to say nothing of drowning-- strike me as a challenge to our impassive view of others, our detachment.

4) What are the gods of 'you shall have no other gods before me'? - The ones I see in this film are technology (as stated above) and self, as seen in the lecture where the father discusses being able to make a computer in his own image, one with reason and feelings.



The Decalogue doesn't really permit strict one-to-one correlations between commandments and particular episodes, though the title of this one is clearly the first commandment. As I have heard it said, it isn't possible to break only one commandment at a time... so this series involves a series of breaches.

This episode addresses more than one theme, notably, honoring your parents and idol worship (technology). But the point of this episode seems to be that only God is God... nothing else is permanent, eternal, unfailing.

5) Theodicy - Perhaps it's just me and my perennial struggles with the purpose of suffering, but what struck me more than the breaking of the first commandment was the death of an 'innocent' for his father's pride. The father despite his failings was an eminently sympathetic character, and I could empathize with his anger as he pushed over the altar. Again, the absence of the silent figure at the drowning was striking.



I'm not sure the boy died "for his father's pride," exactly. More like he died in an accident which technology failed to predict or prevent.

Yes, he did seem to be a very good father, and it's easy to share his grief. One might guess he is angry with himself and his computer (or mathematics), but his anger seems to be directed at God, whose presence he earlier denied. His world, and the center of it, has profoundly changed.

What I love about this series is the expressiveness of each character. Kiezlowski shows a remarkable restraint in letting emotion build slowly across the faces of his cast. Much more is said with a lifted eyebrow than with many words, and the scene in which Pawel (Wojciech Klata) slowly comes to tears is a study in expression. Simple, understated and profoundly human.

That's what sets this series apart from the nightly offerings on PAX, Cornerstone and other networks.

Tim

#8 Russell Lucas (unregistered)

Russell Lucas (unregistered)
  • Guests

Posted 29 September 2003 - 04:21 PM

Well said, Tim.

As a father, I'm really heartened by the father-son relationship in this film, and the way the two share their intellectual curiosity. I absolutely love the look of triumph on Pawel's face when they win the chess match.
It's clear the strength of their relationship has compensated for the absence of the family's mother (Is she still alive? Is she ever really coming back?), and so it seems on one hand unfair to tag Kryzsztof with the inadequacy of his answers to Pawel's questions about what death is.

#9 Andrew

Andrew

    And a good day to you, sir!

  • Member
  • 2,160 posts

Posted 30 September 2003 - 11:29 AM

Alan, you wrote about the father that he's 'sympathetic in many ways, perhaps too many ways.' In re-reading this today, I'm puzzled by the last part of your statement. Could you elaborate, please?

(By the way, I agree completely with your response to my theodicy comment. Intellectually, I've got good answers to the problem of suffering, thanks to Job, Peter Kreeft, C.S. Lewis, and Philip Yancey. Nonetheless, realistic tales like these -- and plenty of real-life situations, too -- stir the pot again for me, revealing how hard-won faith can be.)

#10 Andrew

Andrew

    And a good day to you, sir!

  • Member
  • 2,160 posts

Posted 30 September 2003 - 11:34 AM

I'll throw in a couple of questions, while I'm at it:

- Is there a special significance to the point-of-view shots of Pawel gazing at his father in the lecture hall? Is this mainly showing again his curiosity, looking at someone/something from every possible angle?

- My knowledge of Eastern European history ain't what it should be: where does the making of these films fall in the timeline of pre- or post-communist Poland? What would a series of films springboarding off the 10 Commandments have signified to the first audience in Poland?

#11 Peter T Chattaway

Peter T Chattaway

    He's fictional, but you can't have everything.

  • Member
  • 29,610 posts

Posted 30 September 2003 - 12:07 PM

Andrew wrote:
: My knowledge of Eastern European history ain't what it should be: where
: does the making of these films fall in the timeline of pre- or
: post-communist Poland?

My family lived in Poland for a year when I was six, from mid-'76 to mid-'77. I remember being very paranoid about spies at the time, and any advice my father gave me along those lines was probably influenced by his memories of being part of an anti-apartheid student movement in South Africa in the late '60s (he was expelled from that country the day after his 22nd birthday). A year after we returned to Canada, a Pole became the first non-Italian Pope in centuries. In the early '80s, we heard about the turmoil in Poland as Lech Walesa led the Solidarnosc (Solidarity) movement and fought for greater political freedom; I remember thinking it was very ironic that left-wing groups here in B.C. adopted the name of Walesa's group, since Walesa was fighting a socialist government. Our landlord and his wife visited us in B.C. and we took them on a tour of the province, but they had to leave their children behind in Poland, to make sure that they returned to their country and did not defect; another of my father's colleagues was interrogated and possibly even beaten by police after returning from a similar trip to Canada. (I believe my parents communicated with these people in German, for the most part; I don't remember saying much to them myself, but when Mr Spyrka and I watched our video of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, he grinned and made fists wih his hands to indicate that he liked the fight scenes. If you want to figure out when the Spyrkas visited us, I believe my family also took them to a drive-in theatre to see The Great Muppet Caper, and it drove me nuts that I couldn't see anything because I was in the back of the car, and I couldn't hear anything because my mom was translating EVERYthing.) Around this time, Steve Taylor recorded a song about the Communist oppression of Poland for his 1984 album Meltdown. Dekalog came out in 1988, I believe, and the Iron Curtain didn't come down for another couple years. To judge from films like Kieslowski's own White (1994, I think?) and the more recent Day of the Wacko, Poles still aren't sure what to make of democracy and capitalism and other modern signs of 'freedom'.

#12 Tim Willson

Tim Willson

    Member

  • Member
  • 1,093 posts

Posted 30 September 2003 - 02:18 PM

I'm surprised no one's talked about the aunt yet. I'm going to re-watch the episode tonight and try to pull out some comments on her role.



The second time through, the role of the aunt became much clearer and more important. For one thing, the film starts with her watching Pawel on TV as part of the milk campaign, with tears running down her cheeks. That makes the film a flashback, as the filming of the milk segment takes place part way through the story.

It may also imply that the 'other' opening shot of the recurring neighbor sitting by the fire near the lake is also before the flashback, i.e. is actually from after the drowning, but shown first. If so, the melancholy glance at the camera takes on new meaning.

(The watcher is sitting by a frozen lake without a trace of tragedy; it may symbolize how life goes on, how the traces of a life vanish over time, or it could mean Pawel hadn't drowned yet.)

I need to re-watch as well.

Tim

#13 Andrew

Andrew

    And a good day to you, sir!

  • Member
  • 2,160 posts

Posted 30 September 2003 - 05:16 PM

The discussion of the milk campaign reminds me: would the poor quality of the milk (worthy only of flushing down the toilet) and the inept handling of this by the school (locking the bathroom doors) be a jab at yet another insufficient 'god,' since both the milk-production and education systems would be under the monolithic, atheistic government of Communist Poland? This would be an especially bold stroke if this film was indeed made in the Iron Curtain era.

#14 Andrew

Andrew

    And a good day to you, sir!

  • Member
  • 2,160 posts

Posted 30 September 2003 - 09:01 PM

Good point, Alan -- no doubt the father's rational materialism can be considered an offshoot of the Communist system as well.

However, about your second post: as I recall, Pawel tells his aunt about the film crew coming to his school about halfway into the film, so that would make the bulk of the film a flashback. So while the aunt may be crying about her nephew's faithless surroundings, those would also be tears of grief.

#15 Andrew

Andrew

    And a good day to you, sir!

  • Member
  • 2,160 posts

Posted 01 October 2003 - 12:35 PM

Alan, I like your take on the theme of this film - better than mine about Pawel dying for his father's pride. Then again, I think there's still room for an interpretation that the director is also taking a swipe at atheism and the monolithic, godlike state. Both are parts of a pseudo-scientific worldview that leaves no room for faith and mystery.

I, too, noticed that the director and the father share the same first name - I wondered at the significance of this. I assume this name is the Polish equivalent for the English 'Christopher,' which literally means 'Christ-bearer,' as I recall -- perhaps a reference to the fact that we are bearers of God's image whether we acknowledge it or not, or would this be too much of a stretch?

#16 Thom

Thom

    nothing, nobody, nowhere

  • Member
  • 1,861 posts

Posted 24 October 2003 - 11:40 AM

I just recently watched this movie so my post is quite late in this discussion but I have gleaned quite a bit from the conversation thus far. These movies say quite a bit in 50+ minutes and that is a perfect amount of time to be able to give it a second and third viewing without putting a huge dent in time. With the 50-minute time span you can see just how much “fluff” can be put into a movie. So far the Decalogue series succinctly states what needs to be said and nothing more.

The obvious New Testament reference here is made in Pavel’s character. “…become like a child…” Pavel is innocent to all that is going on around him (politically, spiritually, metaphysically) he has not been tainted by these systems of thought. He is trusting and willing to search for meaning, deeper meaning, openly. And he is full of unconditional love and acceptance. There is no reason to pound out the obvious.

The father also shows a great deal of unconditional love and acceptance of Pavel and his sister (Pavel’s Aunt). I do not believe that Pavel’s death was to challenge the father’s pride or rid him of it. He didn’t even appear to be a prideful man. He didn’t even push his beliefs on his son. He explained things as he believed and allowed Pavel so continue his search. Pavel falling through the ice was going to happen regardless. I think, in the end, it was more to show how the father’s belief system would hold up. Pavel’s death displays the unpredictability and uncertainty of life. The lack of control we truly have.

The father does not have any answers for the events that take place and his loss. I believe this movie shows more about the affects of not possessing the knowledge of God rather than showing specifics as to what gods can come before “thy God.” It also displays the idea that when one becomes desperate and completely at a loss for explanation they tend to turn to God be it in anger or for solace.

Where everyone else appears to be praying at the side of the lake the father remains standing. He stands and stares even as his sister seems to be pleading with him to get down on his knees. Begging him to relinquish control and surrender to God by pulling on his arms as she slowly goes to her knees. He doesn’t end up on his knees but he does end up before an altar. Turning it over in anger. Could it be because Pavel still died even though all those people were praying? Was his anger for them and their betrayal? Or was it because he had no other answer for the events and his grief?

The computer was a symbol of self-reliance for sure. The father is a PhD/professor so I am certain he knew that everything the computer calculated was programmed by man to do so. The computer did not think on it’s own. This is exactly why the father also goes out to check the ice to confirm that the calculations were correct. It also symbolized the age of reason and logic.

I did find it interesting that he was using such an archaic method of writing in comparison to the computer he praised so much. Is there any symbolism in this? The ink leaks out all over every note destroying it, rendering all that work useless, much like that of the computer calculations.

#17 Russell Lucas (unregistered)

Russell Lucas (unregistered)
  • Guests

Posted 24 October 2003 - 11:58 AM

I'm glad you mentioned the scene at the pondside where many of the others are praying. I hadn't said anything about that, but you're right that it says so much about how they (we) respond to possible tragedy.

The ink bottle breaking is, to my mind, a wonderful piece of foreshadowing. Something is broken, shattered beyond use, and Krystzof doesn't know about it until he sees the effects. It goes doubly for the ice and the bottle of course, and the ink spreading out is a gripping image that we've seen often in the context of murders. The ink on Krystzof's hands might remind you of someone washing blood from his hands, even though all of the readings of the film I'd credit don't put blame, responsibility or blood on his hands for Pawel's death. Still, perhaps he sees himself that way, or others might.

#18 Thom

Thom

    nothing, nobody, nowhere

  • Member
  • 1,861 posts

Posted 27 October 2003 - 12:45 PM

I agree with you on the point that Pavel has adopted his father's beliefs but only to the degree that little boys idolize their fathers. You can see this by the fact that he begins to think about death and the after life. He doesn't seem to completely accept the answer his father gives him. He continues to search without discounting the perfection in the man that stands before him. The man he wants to be. Pavel speaks with his aunt about similar issues and he becomes interested in the spiritual as a possible answer.

Also, I wonder, based on the comment of the computer knowing his mother's dreams, if maybe she is dead and he was given the standard answer many years before, "You're mom is in a very deep peaceful sleep." This could be why he is so sensitive to death at a young age. Why he desires to understand it and know more. He misses his mother and longs to share in her companionship.

#19 Russell Lucas (unregistered)

Russell Lucas (unregistered)
  • Guests

Posted 27 October 2003 - 02:54 PM

My favorite line in the whole episode is Pawel's remark to the effect that who cares if he can calculate how quick Kermit and Miss Piggy meet when the dog with the yellow eyes is just lying there. It's really a wonderful relationship between them-- the son has his father's intellectual inquisitiveness, but Pawel's version is open to the possibility of metaphysics.

It's weird, Alan, but I have these strange suspicions that mom's not going to call or come back, for whatever reason.

#20 Thom

Thom

    nothing, nobody, nowhere

  • Member
  • 1,861 posts

Posted 27 October 2003 - 04:37 PM

The mother's not dead (see earlier post). She was expected to call around Christmastime, so there's either a divorce, or she travels.



I have read the earlier posts regarding the mother but something still doesn't feel right. There is nothing said that convinces me the mother is definitely divorced or traveling. All the pieces just don’t fit and it is mysterious enough to feel important. Why doesn’t Pavel call his mother? Why wouldn’t she call more often? Most mothers have quite a bond with a child of Pavels age. The comment regarding the computer and his mother’s dreams seems odd. Why would he want to know what his mother dreams as opposed to knowing her thoughts, safety or location?