The Decalogue 10
Spoilers occur about the ending, this review is intended for those who have already watched the film.
Jerzy and Artur are brothers, but don’t see each other very often, because Jerzy is a family man, while Artur is a successful rock singer who mingles with people, a family man wouldn’t get along with. Now they meet, as their father has passed away. They didn’t spend much time with dad, while he was alive, and they are curious why he has so many locks on his door, in spite of apparently not having many valuables in his house. There are quite a few stamps, which maybe will be worth something. It turns out that their dad was a passionate collector, and his accumulation of stamps is worth millions. The two brothers decide to carefully guard the treasure. Jerzy neglects his family duty. Artur his love of rock music. They end up on a trail for a very rare stamp, which Jerzy must sacrifice his kidney to obtain. But someone covets what belongs to them, and is the apartment properly safeguarded? No, and on top of that, the brothers begin to suspect each other. Unfortunately the stamp collection wasn’t insured.
Analysis and interpretation:
Perhaps the opening music concert is Kieslowski taking a dig at the music business, and how it’s bordering on ridiculous that a singer singing about murder, stealing and committing violence can be a role model for young people. Or should the concert be interpreted from another angle, in that The Decalogue has thoughtfully looked at sins such as those, and music is simply a different outlet to contemplate these topics. Whether the rebellious lyrics are harmful is questionable, because on the other hand the concert has brought all these people together to enjoy a night out. Rebellion is part of growing up, especially in light of the fall of the iron curtain, and Berlin wall falling in 1989, the energy of this event spreading to neighboring countries. Maybe the concert guests aren’t even listening to the City Death lyrics, and just dancing, drinking, and having a good time.
As Stephen Innes at the site damaris points out, the song by Artur’s band City Death, at the beginning of episode 10 “sets the atmosphere of a self-centred, materialist-driven society. The lyrics implore us to break all the commandments because we are the only ones who can make our lives meaningful. You are entitled! This may seem like a rather dark message, but is it not, in fact, an honest reflection of human behaviour?”
For Kieslowski a stamp has a fictitious value no matter the financial worth, the collector assigns it a personal value. It’s a film about incredible selfishness and devoting oneself to one’s passion. The price to be paid is neglecting your family and children. The two lead character’s priorities are a home, on the one hand, and fame on the other. Perhaps both now look at things a little differently by going through the experiences in Episode 10.
Artur expresses anger through his songs lyrics, a rebellion that reeks of hatred towards his parents, siblings, and god knows who else. In some ways, the father is the main character, even though he has died. Likewise the girl needing help is not seen during episode ten. The brother’s realize that the father’s stamps symbolize his love. He has put all his time, energy and attention into the collection, a love that the son’s would have liked had gone in their direction too. Are the two son’s equally to blame for this distance? We don’t know. The two sons are distant to each other, presumably because they are so different. Perhaps not having much in common is also why they are so distant to their father.
The treatment of stamps in this film is such that they almost become a character in themselves. The chairman of the stamp club says it best when asked about their father: “He didn’t do it for the money. He did it out of love”. After hearing these words, the brothers find it increasingly more difficult to part with the stamps for a financial reward. In becoming interested in stamps, they feel closer to their deceased father.
There is a feeling of hope and reunion between the brothers, even though we presume towards the end, that the stamps will not be recovered, and justice will not prevail.
Kieslowski did not want the silent witness in Episode 10, because it’s a comedy. Perhaps the witness in E1-E9 conveys God, but we do not receive insight into his perspective or thoughts.
Connected to the tenth imperative of the Ten Commandments: You shall not covet your neighbor’s house, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
The tone of Dekalog part 10 is a little different to the previous episodes, arguably including satirical comedy elements. As Deciphering the Decalogue writes: “A great deal of the comedy arises from the extreme differences between the brothers.”
In terms of story, it’s deceptively straight-forward. Granted, the father’s stamp collection bringing the brothers together in the closing scene is a little contrived, so on the basis of that, you might rank it among the weakest episodes, and it’s likely Kieslowski was worn out at this point. But I beg to differ, and think it’s a strong conclusion, which includes good performances. The way contemporary music, personal belongings, and the death of a parent are examined are interesting discussion points.
The best thing episode ten has going for it is the chat between the two brothers, which works well, and I believed they were brothers. Maybe there could have been a scene of the older brother’s family life, we only witness a brief moment on the phone with his wife. The heart of the story is of two brothers trying subconsciously to hold on to the last vestiges of a father they never really knew. Finally, the message is obvious, a universal truth about friendship and love is more important than greed for new possessions. Another message could be, that it is unwise to deal with things which one is not knowledgeable.
(Apologies for the small print of the subtitles, you may want to zoom in to read the words)
This concludes my look at Kieslowski’s The Decalogue. I hope you enjoyed reading the posts! All ten episodes have now been rewatched and reviewed, including an introduction article. You can find the links on the sidebar, if you missed them, or want to reread anything. Readers of this review, any thoughts on Episode 10?
Kieslowski on Kieslowski / Danusia Stok
damaris / Stephen Innes