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[Decalogue] Episode II


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#1 (unregistered)

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Posted 30 September 2003 - 10:40 PM

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#2 Andrew

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Posted 06 October 2003 - 01:46 AM

Since it's been October 6th in my timezone for 2+ hours, I'll start things off here...

First, my attempt to grasp the theme of this episode: for me, this was much more elusive than in the first episode, only coming together in the final moments of the film. Then I realized that the filmmakers were considering an interesting twist on 'you shall not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain': rather than the traditional interpretation (a prohibition of cursing and the like), this film has to do with the various ways in which we 'play God,' that is, the ways we take on a godlike role in vain.

Examples from the film:
- the doctor swearing that Andrzej will most certainly die, whereas only God has power over life and death
- Dorota's intent to get an abortion
- Dorota's plucking the leaves off a healthy plant
- Dorota again, pushing the glass off the table then watching it shatter
- Dorota certainly seemed anti-life in many ways, in contrast to the doctor, who is in a life-saving profession and surrounded by plants and fish in his home (even attempting to preserve the life of his wilted plant, in contrast to Dorota's previously-mentioned assault on vegetation). Interesting, too, that the doc and Dorota had first met when Dorota ran over his dog.

The characters:
- After the first episode, where all of the main characters were quite sympathetic, it was striking to observe such an unlikeable person as Dorota.
- Even the doc was unsympathetic at the start, given the way he brusquely turned Dorota away. I was rather moved by the softening of his persona by film's end. His defensive brusqueness was made comprehensible by the tale of his life's tragedy. Perhaps this is silly, but in trying to enter the character's minds, I then wondered what back story perhaps furnished Dorota with such unlovely traits.

I'll stop there -- hopefully these thoughts emanating from my sleep-deprived state make sense. smile.gif

#3 Andrew

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Posted 06 October 2003 - 07:02 PM

Hmm, interesting thoughts so far, Alan -- I'll need to reflect some more on them. On first glance, they make a lot of sense to me, too.

I'm not so sure that my interpretation is such a stretch. Besides, these films seem to leave ample room for more than one meaningful interpretation. In addition, from what I've read about these films, the reference to the particular commandment in each movie is often rather oblique.

If one legitimate theme in episode 2 is, as I suggest, 'you shall not play God,' then the odd behavior referred to in your first and third questions makes sense. Dorata is not only attempting to play God via aborting her child and striving for impossibly certain knowledge about her ill husband's fate, but also with a plant and an inanimate object (the drinking glass). The cruelty and arbitrariness of these last two instances could be then seen as a highly unfavorable commentary on the first two behaviors, which would be widely sanctioned in broader society.

#4 Andrew

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Posted 06 October 2003 - 07:12 PM

Re: QFD #2 -- I was struck by the extent of Dorota's hostility, too! I also wondered if she was going to mow the doctor down (probably a speculation we're supposed to make, since we knew she'd previously run over the doctor's dog). I suspect her hostility stems from her perception that the doctor is keeping her from having absolute certainty about her husband's fate.

Control is clearly of paramount importance to Dorata, viz. again her stripping of the plant and destruction of the glass. It's seen also in her tense refusal to answer the phone until she's good and ready to do so. In addition, her inability to let go of either of the men in her life reflects a similar obstinacy.

#5 Andrew

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Posted 06 October 2003 - 09:24 PM

No apology needed, in either case. I certainly had my understanding broadened and some misperceptions corrected in our discussion of the first film -- this week, I look forward to more of the same. smile.gif

#6 Thom

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Posted 27 October 2003 - 05:00 PM

Decalogue II is now under my belt and I am on to III tonight.

The theme of this episode seemed much more elusive. I like the idea of the breaking of a covenant being equated to taking the Lord's name in vain. I believe that when we break a covenant with God we would have made this promise and pledged his name in vain.

I dont really have anything to add to this discussion. I see things much like everyone else.

The Doctor bases his prognosis on his own limited knowledge of previous cases and swears to Dorta that her husband will not live. He swears without taking into account the supernatural, interceding hand of God. He does this at least two separate times. The first time she meets him at the hospital and then again at the hospital where the Dr. tells her not to have the abortion because her husband is going to die.

Is the doctor trying to manipulate the situation to save the child because he was unable to save his own?

Dorta ran over the Dr's dog, could this be the very same dog Pavel finds dead? Interesting intertwining of lives.

Dorta also says that she wishes she had run over the Doctor instead. What is the history here? That is quite a statement for the minimal relationship these two have.

I also find Dortas dilemma interesting. She is having an affair and gets pregnant. She has had a difficult time conceiving and feels like this is her last chance so she wants to keep the baby if her husband dies, yet she wants to get rid of the child if her husband lives because it is not his and she is in love with both men. This seems like a very cold and callous perspective on relationships and children. Like they are expendable. Her apartment mimics this whole attitude. It is a very sterile place.

Sorry, I am just thinking out load here. This one takes a bit more thought.

Maybe this whole theme rests in three lines of dialogue where Dorta asks the Doctor if he believes in God. This question may imply that Dorta does but she certainly does act like it. Profess belief in God and having actions that show a contrary belief would be taking the Lord's name in vain.

I think I am beginning to see a central theme developing. One that may follow through the entire Decalogue. I would like to view a few more before bring my theory to the masses. I am reserving my right to look like a fool sooner than I would like to.

#7 Russell Lucas (unregistered)

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Posted 27 October 2003 - 05:05 PM

Decalogue II is now under my belt and I am on to III tonight.

The theme of this episode seemed much more elusive. I like the idea of the breaking of a covenant being equated to taking the Lord's name in vain. I believe that when we break a covenant with God we would have made this promise and pledged his name in vain.



Yeah, coincidentally yesterday my pastor made a point about an expansive reading of this commandment. As we now bear the name of Christ, our sins act in a very real sense to use His name in vain. In that vein, the doctor and his small, personal faith, big enough only for him, implicates more than just truth-telling.

#8 Andrew

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Posted 27 October 2003 - 05:19 PM

Ooh, I like your hypothesis about the dead dog - no way to know for certain of course, but a nifty possibility.

Re: Dorta's hateful reaction to the doctor she's just met - believe me, this is quite plausible. On a few occasions, I've borne the brunt of irrational wrath from family members that I've just met, merely because they don't like the news I'm bringing them about their loved one.

#9 Thom

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Posted 27 October 2003 - 05:41 PM

Ooh, I like your hypothesis about the dead dog - no way to know for certain of course, but a nifty possibility.

Re: Dorta's hateful reaction to the doctor she's just met - believe me, this is quite plausible. On a few occasions, I've borne the brunt of irrational wrath from family members that I've just met, merely because they don't like the news I'm bringing them about their loved one.



Very true, this definitely could be the real reaction of one lost in uncertainty and grief trying to grapple with the concreteness of the events at hand. This is a real human interaction. Much like the Drs question to Dorta, How do you get hot water? Her reply, I boil it on the cooker. A real question of the simple actions in lives that are not too different from one another.

#10 Visigoth

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Posted 12 January 2004 - 10:42 AM

QUOTE
Question for discussion: What is the significance of the rubber-tree leaves and Dorota's stripping of the rubber-tree plant in her apartment?


It is very very subtle but here is what I think. Leaves bring nourishment from light to the plant, where as roots bring nourishment from soil and water.
By tearing off the leaves, the plant is left to live only on the soil, the dark damp earth, like the grave. Her very womb becomes a grave for the child as her higher light(or conscience) becomes callous and cut-off to the life growing within her. The life of the child and the life of the Spirit. (hinted atby her asking for absolution.)
Notice how she twists the stalk of the plant and holds it for a moment ? ? It looks like an umbilical chord in her hand while the camera focuses on it.
The leaves are later seen in the room where her husband is dying.

He will take on the nurturing of a life that is not from him and that she was tempted to destroy.

#11 Aaron

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Posted 03 March 2005 - 12:06 PM

QUOTE(Andrew @ Oct 6 2003, 01:46 AM)
Since it's been October 6th in my timezone for 2+ hours, I'll start things off here...

First, my attempt to grasp the theme of this episode:  for me, this was much more elusive than in the first episode, only coming together in the final moments of the film.  Then I realized that the filmmakers were considering an interesting twist on 'you shall not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain':  rather than the traditional interpretation (a prohibition of cursing and the like), this film has to do with the various ways in which we 'play God,' that is, the ways we take on a godlike role in vain.

Examples from the film:
- the doctor swearing that Andrzej will most certainly die, whereas only God has power over life and death
- Dorota's intent to get an abortion
- Dorota's plucking the leaves off a healthy plant
- Dorota again, pushing the glass off the table then watching it shatter
- Dorota certainly seemed anti-life in many ways, in contrast to the doctor, who is in a life-saving profession and surrounded by plants and fish in his home (even attempting to preserve the life of his wilted plant, in contrast to Dorota's previously-mentioned assault on vegetation).  Interesting, too, that the doc and Dorota had first met when Dorota ran over his dog.

The characters:
- After the first episode, where all of the main characters were quite sympathetic, it was striking to observe such an unlikeable person as Dorota.
- Even the doc was unsympathetic at the start, given the way he brusquely turned Dorota away.  I was rather moved by the softening of his persona by film's end.  His defensive brusqueness was made comprehensible by the tale of his life's tragedy.  Perhaps this is silly, but in trying to enter the character's minds, I then wondered what back story perhaps furnished Dorota with such unlovely traits.

I'll stop there -- hopefully these thoughts emanating from my sleep-deprived state make sense.  smile.gif

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I thought the Docter was very sympithetichas faras your interpritation it is probilly the best that can be thought of and it makes the most sense i think the Docter it a sort of metaphor for God in that Dorotais asking the Doctor to do something that violates the hypocratic oath much like a person would sware at God if they did not get there way or they ask God for something immoral or wrong could be taken as a for of profaineing the name of God.

#12 The Invisible Man

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Posted 24 June 2005 - 05:54 PM

Like Andrew, I read Dorota as a force for destruction. She has killed a dog, she mutilates a healthy plant, she smashes a glass (and smiles as she does so, if I recall correctly), and, most significantly, she plans to kill her unborn baby. The doctor is the other side of the coin: he is trying to save the life of her husband, he advises against the abortion, and he is constantly shown fussing over a dying cactus. The irony is that while the doctor has lost everything, Dorota's baby and husband survive.

By the way, I saw nothing in the subtitles to indicate that the doctor's family were killed by a plane crash (I have the region 2 DVD on Artificial Eye). Given the old-ish look of his family photographs, I had assumed that they were killed during the war, probably by a bomb.

Edited by The Invisible Man, 24 June 2005 - 06:17 PM.


#13 Russ

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Posted 29 July 2005 - 01:51 PM

It seems to me that Kieslowski has a couple of purposes in mind in setting each installment against a Commandment (or against all the Commandments), and the interviews I've read with Kieslowski and Piesewicz (sp.?) indicate that their thinking was multifaceted. They were interested in exploring the moral dimensions of everyday living and the way in which we are all beings who make deliberate moral choices which profoundly affect others regardless of our awareness of our choices. There's certainly an element of illustrating the individual and communal pain caused by our failure and unwillingness to keep the standards represented in the Commandments. But there's also an occasional approach to the Decalogue which shows how impossible and difficult they are to keep. Some times that difficulty is used to show how we as humans are in a difficult spot, with perhaps the hint that there's a greater Law to obey. I think that's the case with this installment.

The doctor swears an oath that he apparently knows isn't true in order to save a life. He's broken the Commandment. Is this the sheep falling into the pit on the Sabbath?

To that end, I don't think there's significant focus on the idea that his violation of the Commandment caused harm. It's the Commandment-breaking of others that has put him in this untenable situation; he's forced to break the Commandment to try to stop a chain of misery. There's an unexpected resolution, which may look like deus ex machina, in which the husband is not only miraculously healed, but also either apparently under the impression the child is his or possessed of superhuman forgiveness by reason of his survival.

#14 John

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Posted 26 August 2005 - 09:12 PM

QUOTE(Russ @ Jul 29 2005, 01:51 PM)
They were interested in exploring the moral dimensions of everyday living and the way in which we are all beings who make deliberate moral choices which profoundly affect others regardless of our awareness of our choices.  There's certainly an element of illustrating the individual and communal pain caused by our failure and unwillingness to keep the standards represented in the Commandments.


Russ, I like your thoughts here. This leads me to the final sequence of the film, where the camera sits outside the apartment building, situated below Dorota. We look up at her, feeling the weight of her decision over us - what will she do about this baby? The doctor has told her she must keep it. Without cutting, the camera descends the outside wall of the building, slowly criss-crossing the building until we arrive at the doctors window. We pull even with him, as he is bathed in red light. We enter into his mind here, pondering his breach of conscience when swearing the oath to Dorota. Then the camera moves quickly to the right, to make as if there is no cut again. This time we end up in Andrzej's room where he awakens.

The non-cuts here seem as if they function to keep everyone together, showing how inter-related their decisions are. Each time we interact, each time we engage another, there are consequences or effects.

And what is most compelling for me in this episode, which is such a contrast from the first, is that the doctor's breaking of a commandment is seemingly what is needed to prevent an even greater evil from occurring. In that sense this film is a beautiful witness to the complexities of the moral decisions we are faced with.

Finally, in answer to Ken's recent question, I wonder if the harm is done to the doctor. Obviously a lot of other harm has occurred because of previous commandments being broken, but within the episode, the doctor breaking it brings good to Dorota, Andrzej, and their unborn child. However, in compromising his own conscience to do so, I wonder if he in a way takes the harm on his shoulders?

#15 finnegan

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Posted 27 August 2005 - 12:18 AM

QUOTE(Andrew @ Oct 6 2003, 08:02 PM)
Dorata is not only attempting to play God via aborting her child and striving for impossibly certain knowledge about her ill husband's fate, but also with a plant and an inanimate object (the drinking glass).  The cruelty and arbitrariness of these last two instances could be then seen as a highly unfavorable commentary on the first two behaviors, which would be widely sanctioned in broader society.

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The second time I watched this I also assumed that the dead hare that the superintendant finds while raking was Dorota's. It's unclear whether she killed it or whether it was already dead (from a meat market) but I think it's implied that she threw it from her balcony for the same reason she pushed the glass off the table and killed the plant: a wanton destruction of life and order. Perhaps for reasons of self-loathing--severe guilt over the affair would seem a plausable cause for this.

As a yin to the yang, we also see the bee (and perhaps the defiant springing back of the rubber plant stem) as a symbol that life will not be defeated by destruction.

I think episode II is fast becoming my favorite the more I watch it.



#16 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 01 May 2011 - 10:08 AM

- I don't think it's even a question whether the doctor lied to Dorota in order to stop the abortion or not. He told her the truth when he said that he didn't know for sure - while the actor Bardini is able to provide the doctor with an incredibly ponderous poker face the whole time, it seems pretty certain that he does not want her to have the abortion. This is confirmed at the very end with his last lines in the film.

- I haven't seen anyone else comment on this yet, but what on earth did all the dripping water in Andrzej's room symbolize? His consciousness? His slipping back and forth between life and death? The water dripping even seems to have an affect on his breathing.

- I'm still trying to understand this idea of "playing God." So this is the idea that there are certain decisions that we are not supposed to make? There are choices that only God ought to make? So it's a sort of blasphemy to make these choices yourself? I don't know. Dorota keeps acting destructive towards little things. She uses her love for another man as an excuse for her adultery (not her husband's sickness). She keeps deciding whether it's better or not to allow her child to live. Is acting as "God" exerting power over life and death? Because the doctor is certainly exercising power over life and death, and I don't view him any the worse for it at the end.

#17 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 16 May 2012 - 10:25 AM

Alright, I just read this passage from a fascinating book and had to share it here (pages 182-183):

... In typical Kieslowskian style, it is only now, nearly fifty minutes into the film, that we discover Dorota herself is a musician, proof that Kieslowski sought to emphasize the universal issues over the particulars. In a marvelously hopeful turn, the doctor ends his final conversation with Dorota by remarking that he’d like to come hear her play in the symphony. She does not comprehend the relevance of this statement and walks out, but the doctor clearly considered it before he said it. Music has often been called the international language, emotion made palpable and capable of transcending numerous social, cultural, and personal boundaries. It is his reach, beyond his own crisis, to another suffering human being. It is also the prelude to what is, in my estimation, one of Kieslowski’s greatest sequences.

It is difficult to describe this sequence. Such labels as “poetic” and “lyrical” address the aesthetic character and ineffable reach of the artifact, but they lack the explanatory power for analysis ... The sequence begins with a shot of Dorota staring out of her apartment window, less shaky than she was as she peered from the hall window in the beginning of the film. She does not smoke, and her expression seems to indicate a beseeching, prayerful posture. Her gaze is directed upward, and she remains unmoving, immobile in the iconic, cosmic time. The camera begins a slow, deliberate descent. For what seems to be an eternity, we see the cold, abstract texture of the building’s concrete facade, a surface we first viewed intently in the crosslike formations of the balconies at the beginning of Decalogue I. One floor. Two floors. Three levels down, we come upon the face of the doctor, bathed in an infernal red glow, staring iconically right at the camera. The theological parallels emerge in this phrase from the ancient Apostle’s Creed, speaking of Christ, who ‘suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell.’ The next phrase will be represented as well: ‘The third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.”

The camera swiftly pans right and makes a seamless passage through cosmic space to the hospital room, where Andrzej lies still. The music suddenly shifts mode as his eyes miraculously open (an echo of the opening eyes of Christ in the hologram Witek beholds in Blind Chance). The camera seamlessly moves again, spiritlike, to a close-up of the glass on the table. Dorota’s berries, which she brought him and left at the behest of the roommate, sit in the bottom of the glass, staining the water red. A single bee desperately fights for a way out of the liquid that threatens to engulf it. We wonder if it will survive the arduous struggle, as Kieslowski never wavers in his long, watchful shot. In an astonishing, life-affirming gesture, the bee emerges from the syrup to crawl along the glass rim, under Andrezej’s watchful gaze. The scene cuts to Dorota playing with the symphony, and her face suddenly registers a change, an intuition that something has shifted in the cosmos. The very slightest beginnings of a smile emerge, as though she were looking at the next image: an empty doorway, like the entrance to a tomb, into which walks Lazarus himself.

This resurrection stands in the Transcendent mode of other films. Among the differing themes in the Transcendental style, the miraculous turn is among the most difficult to effectively execute without lapsing into a fairy tale-like ethos. In my judgement, Kieslowski succeeds admirably here. This film also follows what has been known to Christian mystics as “the dark night of the soul.” It is the mode of the Passion, completed by the resurrection, a sacramental mode in film traced beautifully by Peter Fraser in Images of the Passion ...