The work of Krzysztof Kieślowski has been defined by an incredible trilogy of films in his Three Colours piece. Pre-dating his work in this trilogy, he crafted ten short tales for his television piece The Decalogue. Each deal with theories and tones of life and death, the heavy hitting topics that are expected of the late 1980s. Highlighted as being a potential connection to that of The Ten Commandments, Dekalog One gives us a strong start and a rough impression of what the series will entail.
What you can always expect from dearly beloved pieces of older foregin cinema is knock out performances. Truly great is the on-screen pairing of Henryk Baranowski (who plays Krzysztof) and Wojciech Klata (playing Krzysztof’s son, Paweł), that much of Dekalog One thrives off of such a great father and son dynamic. It’s rare to see child actors perform well whatsoever, with the only exception being Macaulay Culkin in Richie Rich. To see Klata perform on the same level as that of Baranowski and other cast members throughout this episode is an absolute delight. The pairing brings life to a well-rounded script.
Dealing with the abstract ideas surrounding atheism with all the subtlty of a hammer being launched at your face, Dekalog One feels, at times, too scared to make much of a statement. It peters along, banking on the reliable chemistry Paweł and Baranowski, the two give great performances. Throwing in Irena (Maja Komorowska) as Krzysztof’s God-fearing sister, the clashes become a bit too on the nose, but serve their purpose well. It provides us a respectful divide between two completely clashing ideologies. All of this comes together well during the climax of the episode, making for intense and harrowing viewing.
Often seeping with tones of the supernatural or the otherworldly, Decalogue One is a nice insight to where exactly the series will take us. Harrowing, depressing, capturing the time of the post-Eastern Bloc wave coming to an end. Krzysztof Kieślowski manages to capture a narrative of tension superbly well, bringing stories of people to the forefront and the creatively upsetting issues inside are truly worth the build-up necessary to get into the darker themes. A fantastic and unsettling start to a series that looks to provide some more dismal affairs as it trundles on.