"What is the true meaning of life?" Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski has asked. "Why get up in the morning? Politics doesn't answer that." The Decalogue, Kieslowski's extraordinary, challenging collection of ten one-hour films made for Polish television in the dying days of the Soviet Union, doesn't answer Kieslowski's questions either. What it does is pose them as hauntingly and seriously as any cinematic effort in the last quarter century.
The decalogue is not easy to keep, and The Decalogue is not easy to watch. Although the ten episodes explore moral questions, they do so in the context of disordered, sometimes dysfunctional lives of a modern, generally areligious urban populace. Kieslowski never preaches, and seldom even seeks explicitly to clarify lines between right and wrong, but the prevailing mood is somber and downbeat, the general sense of something having gone wrong unavoidable. Like much of the Old Testament, The Decalogue is a chronicle of human failure.
The ten episodes are linked by a common setting, a Warsaw high-rise apartment complex where all the characters live (an early establishing shot perhaps suggests the Tower of Babel), and also by the occasional overlapping of characters from one episode into another. There is also an enigmatic, silent observer whose presence in nearly all the episodes suggests some symbolic role. This observer has been variously identified with God, truth or conscience; Kieslowski's agnostic comment was "I don't know who he is" though he also added, "He's not very pleased with us."
– Steven D. Greydanus
Click here for more on Kieslowski, at Culture.pl, the online magazine promoting Polish Culture abroad, run by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute and funded by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of Poland.