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Eventually, this episode from the DEKALOG series will take on a life of its own. Beginning with a melodramatic premise-- a successful young doctor afflicted with irremediable impotence instructs his loving wife to take a lover-- Kieslowski constructs a 50 minute drama of extraordinary impact, the end of which is an affirmation of their marriage as a spiritual state these partners only half-perceive themselves. I called the film tragic above, but its arc parallels Shakespeare's late romance, THE WINTER'S TALE, right down to a near-miraculous conclusion. A lovely piece of work.
To my way of thinking, what really makes this episode of "Dekalog 9"
("Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife") very singular is the
fundamental importance ascribed to dialectics between sex and love
applied to the theme of transgression and violation of the bond of
conjugal fidelity. The drama of a married couple driven to despair and
harassed by problems not easy to solve floats before our eyes in a
disturbing way. The gravity of the situation cannot be underestimated,
even if the two of them are still linked together by a close bond of
Kieslowski doesn't show any scruples about following Hanka's and Roman's despairing thoughts in the course of their restless, toiling existence and carries out his purpose by a series of very frequent close ups, using long focal length zoom lens, enveloping the two characters in a sort of crude grazing lighting, showing up faces furrowed with wrinkles, placing their features in anything but a favorable light, casting a gloomy shadow over their future, almost prefiguring the uncertain life of the soul kept aside for them. He looks mercilessly into their pale and strained faces, revealing false pretenses mingled with an indefinite sense of guilt, ready to expose their congenital hypocrisy, to dismantle every misleading sense of security. Truly determined to penetrate the defensive shield erected around the married couple, Kieslowski finds out painful scars of time concealed into the folds of their skin worn away by perpetual stress in their marriage, violates the privacy of their facial features revealing all their disarming vulnerability, all their secret consistency of pure mirrors of souls double-crossing each other.
In this embarrassing situation where the impurity of deviating thoughts finds its barycenter in ill-concealed impulses of jealousy, a particular mention goes to the directorial use of the phone, invested with the task of unmasking every ambiguous situations and gratified with many meaningful close ups. Once again the director takes delight in evoking a suggestive game of mirrors in the successful attempt of rendering with great evidence the sense of estrangement and the ambiguous atmosphere of the story. He redoubles the nervous tension due to the dialectic game of two lonely souls with their nerves on the edge, with their barren make-believe opportunely unmasked for the benefit of the audience. Even if the doubtful transgression of the ninth commandment is perceived vaguely, the ninth episode of the "Dekalog" is one of the most significant of the whole series, full of inmost Bergmanian suggestions. And already one can perceive clear premonitory echoes of "The double life of Véronique" between the folds of this story.
I notice that not too many people have commented on Decalogue Nine. I find this remarkable, but I think it might be because not too many people get this far in the series. From a writing standpoint, the best of the series are in the middle (I would say, maybe, 3, 5, and 6), but from a cinematic standpoint, Nine is the best. It predicts a lot of the trick film-making he would go on to do in Trois Couleurs: Bleu. Take note particularly of the shots through glass and the on the elevator in which the characters act in a scene somewhere between strobe light and slide show. All of this is not to say, however, that the writing or acting in this one are sub-par. In fact, the man who plays the doctor is remarkable and, like all of the films, there is a powerful ambiguity in which Kieslowski and Piesiewicz seem to, at once, take the commandments with a grain of salt and look upon them with the utmost seriousness.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is an interesting addition to the Decalogue in that it presents
the ethic from a top-to-bottom rather than a bottom-to-top approach:
the husband actually asks his wife to find sexual satisfaction from
other sources, and yet cannot though encouraging allow her to.
It's the main issue of the tension between sexuality and love, and one of the keys to its dramatic construction is the separation between male ideas of sex and love versus female ideas of the same. Does sexual identity necessary consummate love, or can the two exist separately? The protagonist in this case cannot separate the two, though his wife is willing to split the two apart and love him unconditionally while still pursuing sexual satisfaction elsewhere.
I must admit that this is the most confusing Decalogue to me, and I don't think I fully comprehend its approach or how it relates to the law proper, but that doesn't change it's subthemes and dramatic approach from affecting me as well. I still enjoyed it immensely.
A knowledgeable film enthusiast will surely know the way in which infidelity is treated by some of the biggest names in European cinema. For a good example there is French Hitchcock Claude Chabrol whose films take pleasure in showing husbands brutally killing the lovers of their wives when they come to know of their wives' foolish infidelities.There is also Krzysztof Kieslowski,a Polish cinéaste who presents an East European vision of modern Polish society dealing with males and females cheating their respective partners."Dekalog: Dekalog,Dziewiec (#1.9)" turns out to be an outstanding infidelity film as it makes an honest attempt to link marital infidelity with confidence,trust and love which is needed by all couples in order to nurture and sustain their married lives.In this medium length feature Kieslowski asks a challenging question :can a bourgeois couple have reason to cheat each other if they have everything which they could wish for ? It is for the viewers to search for an answer which suits their intellectual level keeping in mind that nothing worthwhile can be said about a couple which is dishonest in spite of having no dearth of emotional richness.
Decalogue 9 - "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife" is a story of
the words misinterpreted, the important phone calls missed by a second.
The loving couple has to deal with the serious problems that include
the husband's impotence and the wife's infidelity. She loves her
husband and does not want to leave him even after she learns the sad
truth about his condition. She wants to end a strictly physical affair
with a younger boyfriend. Her husband does not know that and the
tragedy of errors just about to happen
Decalogue 9 is also interesting because in it we first meet the main character of Kieslowski's later film, "Double Life of Veronique." Roman, the hero of Decalogue 9 is a heart surgeon and works in the hospital. One of his patients is a young, full of life girl who loves to sing and has a heart condition. Her favorite composers are Bach, Mozart, and Van den Budenmayer (a fictitious Dutch composer whose music is written by the regular Kieslowski's associate, Zbigniew Preisner).
'Dekalog' is a towering achievement and a televisual masterpiece that
puts many feature films to shame, also pulling off a concept of great
ambition brilliantly. Although a big admirer of Krzysztof Kieślowski (a
gifted director taken from us too early), and who has yet to be
disappointed by him, to me 'Dekalog' and 'Three Colours: Red' sees him
at his best.
All of 'Dekalog's' episodes have so many great things, and it is an example of none of the lesser episodes (my least favourite being the still very good Episode 8) being bad. This is testament to the high quality of 'Dekalog' as an overall whole and how brilliant the best episodes are.
Episode 9 is yet another great one from 'Dekalog'. The story is one of the slighter ones of the series, but that is by no means a flaw. My only complaint is the middle act dragging a little bit, otherwise Episode 9 is great stuff while falling short of being one of the best 'Dekalog' stories like Episodes 1, 4, 5 and 6.
As per usual, it is exceptionally well made. The production values in Episode 9 are as ever atmosphere-enhancing, beautiful and haunting to look at and fascinating, definitely cannot be faulted on the technical front. The direction is quietly unobtrusive, intelligently paced and never too heavy, and the music is suitably intricate.
Characters are interesting, well-developed and feel like real people in a compelling sense. The story is thematically rich with much to say about its central conflict of sexuality and love. They are explored intelligently without descending into heavy-handedness, and the episode is powerfully moving, thought-provoking and life-affirming. The acting is superb as to be expected, with complexity and nuances by the bucket-load.
All in all, great 'Dekalog' episode but not one of the series' finest. 9/10 Bethany Cox
This is one of the most potent Dekalogs for a while. The setup is one
of those brilliant Kieslowski touches of sending us echoes that we're
uncertain if from a hazy future or from inside the soul. He had plans
to turn this into a third Short Film but gave up after exhaustion.
A husband discovers he's unable to have children, the doctor suggesting divorce, the end of his marriage. This is interlaid with shots of the wife back home looking for him in an empty apartment. There's a desolate sense between the two of them, something lost along the way and no one looked for it to put it back in. They lay on the same bed now, he has shared the news, and suggests she takes up an affair.
But is all of this, as in film noir, a dreamlike urge of pushing her away from him, or deep down wanting to? At the hospital where he works we get the sense that he's fascinated by a young patient who has a lovely voice but her heart might give way if she becomes a singer. She is content to not pursue this love.
So there is something, the Kieslowskian touch as I am discovering with these Dekalogs, of elusively inhabiting something that's been laying in wait and opens chasms in who these characters are. What we see may be what she's thought about before in a marriage that was draining itself away.
But then it slowly drains itself away. It sets itself up for formulaic surprises where now the boyfriend shows up where she went on a trip and he finds out and is heartbroken. We have what's by now a very typical tension in the series. If you have seen previous Dekalogs in a row, like I did, this will be slight by now.
I'm a bit upset at our filmmaker.
I know that each of these ten is its own little experiment. Each has its own adventure in vision and dreaming. But all ten have an arc as well. Oh, not in the stories; they're good enough in their way. What I mean is the cadence that comes from the difference in how each of these sees.
Some have an eager eye, others lazy. Sometimes the eye is inside the emotional container of the thing. Sometimes, often, the camera is liquid on some surface that is emotionally tipped. They're all different, and together we have a sort of poem in how the rocks are arranged in the sky for us to see as art after we have seen the immediate art by standing on each of them.
So we are nearing the end, and this penultimate eye is essential to giving us distance.
Sure enough, almost everything about this is perfect. Its about spying, about placing yourself to see hoping to not get hit by what we see and knowing we will.
There's lots of architectural framing, interstitial platforms and invaginations. Its about children lost before they were had, the greatest tragedy.
So why am I miffed, if it is so perfect, so delicately jolting? Because in the final scene he leaves his Kieslowski world and gives us a shot so banal, so ordinary, so conventionally shot we wonder what he was thinking. Its a phone call, alternating between the husband calling and the wife receiving.
Its a Hitchcock-derived shot. Now don't get me wrong, Hitchcock invented the curious, floating camera that Kieslowski (and Chris Doyle) exploit. But his setups are so quoted now that to use one today is almost a matter of parody. And that's what we are left with.
I can only assume that the difference was intended, that our filmmaker wanted to let us know that things will be different now. That it will now be "real" and not a man and woman acting real and watching themselves work at it.
But it is shocking, that call.
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
Surgeon reacts to a diagnosis of impotence as if it were a terminal
urging his wife to take a lover and plunging into suicidal depression. His
wife, however, is willing to live with the diagnosis and swears to a love
above and beyond sex, which he rejects, at first; the movie is about his
struggling with and final acceptance of this Platonic ideal. Jealousy
him to spy on and covet his own wife, ergo the commandment. But this only
humiliates him further. In a parallel, somewhat superfluous plot, a young
female patient asks his advice about a risky operation which would enable
her to sing, her life's dream. Both face the same dilemma of whether or
to accept a physical limitation which deprives them of their life's
Unlike him, the young woman is willing to live with her disease and forego
singing. He changes her mind.
I thought the surgeon and the film, both, over-reacted to the diagnosis, assigned too much weight to it. The melodramatic lack of perspective makes the movie as moribund as its subject matter. Of course, it's amply color coded; the passing stranger in white rides by again; and, again, there's lapse of credibility: the surgeon shares a cigarette with the patient who is supposed to have a disease so debilitating as to prevent her from singing--this makes no sense. But, once again, K. knows how to make the final scene count, canceling earlier shortcomings, at least for a moment.
Overwrought arty soap opera.
By this stage of the series one is right to be more than a little weary and wary of having the same heart strings tugged on to play the same melancholy tune.
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