The Decalogue (1989) Episode 9

The Decalogue 9

Spoilers occur about the ending, this review is intended for those who have already watched the film.

Following some tests, 40-year-old Roman is diagnosed with impotence, and his world falls apart. He is a doctor who cares very much for his wife, Hanka, and he believes given the circumstances that she must take a lover. Little does he know, she already has a lover, who’s name is Mariusz. Roman out of jealousy begins spying on Hanka, listening in to conversations on the phone, has a key made for the apartment of Hanka’s mother, the rendezvous of the lovers. One day, Hanka surprises him, when he is lurking in the apartment. She understands that he feels hurt, she cares about him, and was it not her who told him, that love is of the heart and not between the legs? They talk some more about their relationship, and agree on, that maybe they need some time apart. She goes on a skiing holiday, and Roman realizes, that Mariusz is heading for the same destination, but Hanka is not aware of this. When she suspects Roman has put the pieces together, she hurries back to Warszawa, where Roman has attempted suicide.

Kieslowski sees Roman as a person not present in the now, Roman is somewhere else. His impotence is synonymous with a lack of a future, therefore he looks at the world differently.
Roman is not particularly mature for his age, he hasn’t really grown up. Roman and Hanka are not interested in kids, his fulfillment you might think would come from his work as a doctor or his emotional bond with his wife or friends, but we realize how much of his manhood and confidence stems from his sexuality, and when Roman’s ability to have sex is snatched away from him, he feels lost. We see things through the eyes of the man that is being cheated on, which allows the viewer to pity Roman.

A book is retrieved from the rubbish. There are also scenes where the glove box would not shut, the meaning of what this was supposed to symbolize is not clear. If anyone knows, let me know!

According to Stephen Innes: “On several occasions in the film, we see Hanka sensing Roman’s state of mind (she gives the camera several ‘iconic’ looks to indicate this). This emphasizes the spiritual nature of the relationship: there is a metaphysical connection between them that she seems privy to. This aspect of the relationship is one which only grows stronger as the film proceeds. Another way this is evident is the more prominent role of the ‘mystery character’ in this film. He was present at Roman’s car accident and, more importantly, came to his aid after his suicide attempt. For all the tragedies in this series which imply God’s absence (I, V, VI, VII), here is an example of God’s presence. This film stands as a story of grace: Roman perhaps should not have lived, but he survives (with help, if you will). And the hope we take away is Roman’s renewed sense of commitment as a result of being given a second chance.”

My least favorite of the ten Decalogue episodes.
Connected to the ninth imperative of the Ten Commandments: You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. The main plot focuses on a husband voyeuristically coveting his own wife. The narrative is about jealousy, confidence and love.
A character requesting his partner to take a lover may have inspired Lars von Trier’s Breaking the Waves. The girl who loves to sing and has a heart condition foreshadows The Double Life of Veronique (1991)

Next time, I’ll look at Episode 10. Readers of this review, any thoughts on Episode 9?

Kieslowski on Kieslowski / Danusia Stok


Deciphering The Decalogue

14 thoughts on “The Decalogue (1989) Episode 9

  1. @SJHoneywell: it's easy to have personal favorites from the series. For me, this episode was over-simplified, his confidence being so bound to his sexuality. His job, circle of friends and leisure activities I think should have been looked at. If he found meaning other places in his life as well, as we all do, then it could have been even more ambiguous.


  2. @Josh: Not among my favorite episodes either, I don't like the main characters, and the metaphor of the glove compartment made zero sense to me. Perhaps it's not as powerful or original, because the voyeurism theme was done already in a previous, superior, installment


  3. I like it a little more than you (it definitely isn't my least favorite), but I agree it is one of the weaker entries. Either way, “weak” when describing a Decalogue segment is like calling a particular brick of gold dusty.


  4. I have never even heard of this show, but it's quite intriguing the fact that the plots are loosely based upon the Ten Commandments. I wonder if Netflix Instant has this to rent.


  5. Just coming over to say 'Hi'. Haven't heard from you in a while, Chris. Hope all is well! I watched 'In A Better World' couple of days ago, I remembered you highly recommend it. And yes, it was worth the watch!


  6. @Andina: I've been quiet, because I was on holiday, and didn't have internet where I stayed, except once I went to a library. Back to normal blogging later this week. Nice to hear you enjoyed 'In A Better World'


  7. @Alex Withrow: Not a bad episode, I agree, not great either. Perhaps impotent husbands have been in similar situations with their wife taking a lover, and jealousy a factor, who knows


  8. @Ruth: There is a timeless quality about The Decalogue, so well worth a look, and not really dated. The 10 one hour episodes are in Polish, so make sure you get a copy with subtitles.


  9. I love this one because of its intrigue as well as a man trying to see if his wife is really cheating on him. I understand why his wife is doing this yet I was more interested in the man who was just dealing with himself. I also loved the references to Van Budenmeyer that would become a key proponent of Kieslowski's later work including a character who would be similar to Weronika.


  10. @thevoid99: Episode 9 was interesting enough to watch, but I prefer other episodes. Scenes where the glove box would not shut, what this was symbolizing, I could not figure out.
    I guess you noticed the story similaries to Lars von Trier’s Breaking the Waves-which I remember is one of your favorite films.
    I did see the character at the hospital similar to Weronika, but I haven't really talked about the music in my review, good call on Van Budenmeyer.


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