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  • Writer's pictureCharles Cherney

82: Dekalog 9 - Kieślowski

I am working my way through watching again Dekalog (The Decalogue) - a 1989 Polish television drama series directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski. It consists of ten one-hour films, inspired by the Ten Commandments (the Decalogue). Each short film explores characters facing one or several moral or ethical dilemmas as they live in an austere housing project in 1980s Poland. Made for TV. And, as it happens, a masterpiece of world cinema. I first saw these at the Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square in the 1990s. It was time to revisit them, so I purchased the films on DVD.

For the most part, these ten one-hour films are dark and depressing. And absolutely wonderful. Really!

I recently watched Dekalog 9, an exploration of the commandment "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife."

The plot: Dr. Roman Nycz, in his 30s, has been diagnosed with impotence. His attractive young wife of ten years, Hanka, says to him that she accepts it. However, as the film unfolds, we learn - as does Roman - that Hanka has a lover.

Although the film spends more screen time on Roman, I find the story is ultimately more about Hanka. Her suffering, her compassion, and her simply being human are at the heart of this sad but strangely uplifting story. The glimmer of hope in the final scene constitutes a happy ending. Or at the very least a new chapter.

This film is a profound meditation on the meaning of love. What does it mean to love another person? To love one's self? To be loved? What are the ties that bind?


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