Kieslowski and his co-scripter Krzysztof Piesiewicz start each story in a simple but indirect manner, slowly giving the viewer information until some well-defined crucial moment arrives, leading to usually unexpected emotional repercussions. Decalogue 6: Thou Shall Not Commit Adultery starts with a young Peeping Tom spying on an older woman across a shared courtyard. His being found out is inevitable, but where it leads has a lifelike unpredictability. The narrative of Decalogue 4: Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother pivots on a young woman’s discovery that her father may, in fact, not really be her father and then tumbles into a strange area of sexual tension and shared fantasy.
Some of these segments are flat-out masterpieces — one wouldn’t want to change a scene — while others are less gripping but still thoughtful and darkly insightful. But the cumulative effect is undeniably impressive. The Decalogue is a towering work of humane pessimism.
Richard C. Walls writes about film and music for Metro Times. E-mail him at email@example.com.