All the films of the Krzysztof Kieslowski’s “Dekalog” are set in contemporary Warsaw, Poland, a decade after the election of St. John Paul II as pope (he makes a cameo appearance in one installment via photographs), but still a communist-run nation as soulless apartment block after soulless apartment block fills the screen in each episode.
There are a handful of returning characters, mostly having to do with the post office and a university, but no character is a featured player in more than one installment. There is, though, a mute Greek chorus of sorts — Kieslowski himself? — who witnesses a pivotal moment in most, if not all (I hadn’t been looking for him early on) of the films. But with multiple pivotal moments in each episode, you can’t count on this fellow popping up each and every time.
Here is an overview of the plot of the “Dekalog” films, one for each of the Ten Commandments:
One: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall not have other gods beside me.” An agnostic (at best) university mathematics professor, so well off he has not one but two home computers — remember, this is 1988 — also has a bright and inquisitive son who is curious about God, aided and abetted by his Catholic aunt. The lad gets an early Christmas present of ice skates and he wants to try them out on the nearby pond. But, despite Dad’s computer calculations of ice thickness — plus a personal test — tragedy strikes, calling the meaning of virtually everything into question.
Two: “You shall not invoke the name of the Lord, your God, in vain.” A woman whose husband is desperately ill in the hospital insists on a prognosis from his doctor. She’s carrying another man’s child, but will go through with the pregnancy only if her husband dies; otherwise, she will have an abortion. The woman makes the doctor swear to the veracity of his diagnosis once she revealed the truth of her situation.