It’s not often that something that made its debut on Polish television gets this kind of acclaim, but Krzysztof Kieslowski’s “Dekalog”(“Decalogue” in English) merited precisely that acclaim — even now, 28 years after its debut.
Kieslowski was commissioned by Polish TV to make a series of hour-long dramas on each of the Ten Commandments. This being state television, there were no commercials or promotions for other programs to rob Kieslowski of precious minutes to tell his tales.
“Dekalog” was heralded as a sensation when viewers first caught sight of it. Eventually, it made its way to the United States. I recall going to a film festival in Washington in 1994 hoping to catch the first two installments. I was at the multiplex a good half-hour early to buy tickets, but it was already sold out. I had thought that if I’d missed the first two, then the remaining eight wouldn’t make much sense to me. So I let them all slip past. The following year, Kieslowski’s “Tricolor” trilogy, based on the French bleu-blanc-et-rouge flag, makes its way to the film-festival circuit. And I caught each of the three full-length films.
Fast-forward to 2016. I’m doing my typical pre-dawn walk up and down the main drag close to my neighborhood. In full view during my walk is the marquee of the Silver Theater in Silver Spring, Maryland. For a week, I pass by the marquee while the words “Dekalog: One and Two” or “Dekalog: Three and Four” roll by. I don’t make the connection, because in 1994 the series was being touted in English: “Decalogue.”
Then, one morning, I look at the marquee. I see five pairs of “Dekalog” encompassing 10 numbers. I realize that “Dekalog” is “Decalogue.” I make immediate plans to get out of work early to take in — well, the last eight. A phone conference commitment followed by a lunch commitment will force me to miss the first two installments yet again. Drat. At least this time, our online world can give me several days’ advance notice of screenings at the Silver, and “Dekalog: One and Two” will indeed play once more at a date and time I can slip out of the office yet again.
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