The Decalogue: Season 1, Episode 7

Decalogue Seven: Thou Shalt Not Steal (15 Jun. 1990)
"Dekalog, siedem" (original title)

TV Episode  -   -  Drama
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"Thou shalt not steal" - but in this case the 'theft' is of a child by her real mother, who then finds herself emotionally unable to cope with the responsibility, while the stable and ... See full summary »

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Title: Decalogue Seven: Thou Shalt Not Steal (15 Jun 1990)

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Cast

Episode complete credited cast:
Anna Polony ...
Ewa
Maja Barelkowska ...
Majka
Wladyslaw Kowalski ...
Stefan
Boguslaw Linda ...
Wojtek
Bozena Dykiel ...
Ticket Woman
Katarzyna Piwowarczyk ...
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Artur Barcis
Stefania Blonska
Dariusz Jablonski
Miroslawa Maludzinska
Jan Mayzel
Ewa Radzikowska
Wanda Wróblewska
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Storyline

"Thou shalt not steal" - but in this case the 'theft' is of a child by her real mother, who then finds herself emotionally unable to cope with the responsibility, while the stable and loving family that brought the child up are distraught. Written by Michael Brooke <michael@everyman.demon.co.uk>

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15 June 1990 (West Germany)  »

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Referenced in The Simpsons: Lisa's First Word (1992) See more »

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Stealing as a metaphor
18 June 2003 | by (Trivandrum, Kerala, India) – See all my reviews

The film can be evaluated at several levels. It offers several layers of meaning, teasing the viewer as it progresses.

Kidnapping your own daughter from the ownership of your mother is a bizarre situation. Two women want to own a young child--the biological mother and the grandmother who yearned to "suckle" another. Interestingly the script looks at three generations of the same sex. The males seem to be the outsiders, yet balanced in comparison to the females in the movie.

"Thou shall not steal" is the commandment that is apparently broken. The film leads you to believe that the mother has "kidnapped" her own child. The film seems to argue quite elegantly that the real thief is the grandparent not the "kidnapping" mother. The "kidnapping" is symbolic--the police is mentioned not seen. The law presented in the film is moral one, not a civil one. In the end, it is the natural affection the child yearns for that is stolen, not by an individual but by circumstances (the state?).

Is this a veiled criticism of Poland, the effect of communism on the young emerging democracy? What would have happened if the "stealing" within and without the movie did not take place? The film begins with the sound of the child crying that can be heard outside the walls of the house; the film ends with the silent cry of the child in the open, without walls and yet the cry cannot be heard, only seen (harking back to Rod Steiger's silent cry at the end of "The Pawnbroker"). Is fleeing to Canada (read: Western capitalism) a better option than staying back in the overgrown, ummowed gardens (with dilapidated merry-go-rounds) of Poland? Is making teddy bears a better life than taking care of your child? Is he making an argument for "stealing" becoming honorable for the cause of freedom? The film leaves you with more questions than answers, yet providing a mature level of entertainment for the intelligent viewer.

I had the good fortune to have met Kieslowski in 1982 after he made "Camera Buff" in Bangalore, India, a film that did not have the sparkle and maturity of his later works. Little did I imagine that he would go on to make the "Three colors" trilogy and "Decalogue". These later works make you wonder at the ambiguity of his later work--the beguiling smile of a Mona Lisa as he deals with religion, politics, morals with a twinkle in his eye.

This episode may be seem to present an unusual story but what a masterful way to present it. Innocence is limited to one character in the entire film: the child. Just one word describes the episode, brilliant in philosophy and in cinema, thanks partly to cinematographer Dariusz Kuc.

Theologically analyzed, the film offers more for reflection. The subject of stealing goods is arguably covered by the 10th commandment "thou shalt not covet thy neighbours goods" and the seventh commandment is often subtly interepreted as "thou shalt not kidnap" (read Wikepedia on "Ten Commandments" quoting a Jewish Rabbi, Rashi). This is probably the reason why the film is all about kidnapping and not about stealing goods which is dealt by the director and screenplay writer in Decalogue 10--which is all about stealing goods and about "coveting thy neighbor's goods"--confusing many critics who missed the distinction being made on screen. This is a fine example of cinema that invites you to read more after seeing the film (and revise your own judgement). Pieseiewicz and Kiesolwski had done their homework!


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