Restorations Reviews The Paragon

Dekalog (Blu-ray release)

Dekalog II: Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain

This episode of Dekalog can be viewed as a thematic predecessor to Kieślowski’s later work, Three Colors: Blue. It discusses grief and the concept of a person faced with losing the ones they love. It also parallels the musical component of Blue, as two romantically entangled characters create and perform beautiful orchestral themes.

Dekalog II tells the story of Dorota (Krystyna Janda), a woman whose husband (Olgierd Lukaszewicz) has fallen gravely ill. She seeks the help of an important doctor at the hospital where her husband is being cared for and who lives in her building (Aleksander Bardini). She is facing a conundrum as she has been impregnated by a man who is not her husband. Dorota is conflicted, believing that if her husband will live that she must have the baby aborted, but if her husband will die she wishes to keep the child and raise him with the other man whom she also loves. Having been unable to get pregnant in the past, she realizes that this is likely her only chance to have a child. Shortly after she first reaches out to the doctor for assistance, she can be seen pulling the leaves off of a plant one-by-one, and then bending the stalk of the plant in a strange “he loves me, he loves me not” type of gesture. This is the sort of symbolic action that Kieślowski loves to use to silently imply and foreshadow emotion, rather than describing it through exposition. At the time that this occurs, the audience is not yet aware of Dorota’s philosophical dilemma.

dekalog-iiPeculiarly, Kieślowski does not provide a name for the doctor, but he provides plenty of exposition. This is another very Kieślowskian technique, as by not assigning the doctor an explicit identity, he allows the audience to more easily draw parallels to other characters with whom one shares similar experiences. The doctor is regularly joined by his housekeeper as he recounts excerpts from his past. Early in the episode he tells her a story of when his daughter began to have teeth grow in. In the story, the doctor’s father calms the child by showing her that he himself is missing a tooth and explaining, “everything tallies.” A seemingly mundane story, this is actually heavy foreshadowing of how the story between the doctor and the woman will play out. It is revealed in a later conversation between the doctor and his housekeeper that his entire family was killed in a freak accident when he came home one day to find a crater where his house had been.

Over the course of the episode, Dorota goes back and forth as to whether or not to have the abortion. When she speaks with her lover, a fellow member in the philharmonic she is a part of, she tells him that she has decided not to keep their child even though this means that they cannot be together. As she hangs up the phone, he says “I love you”. However, when she tells the doctor she is about to have the abortion, he urges her not to. It is in this scene that the Commandment that the episode is named after comes into play. When the doctor instructs Dorota not to have an abortion, she makes him swear that her husband will die. Given the implication that a swear is a promise to God, it may make the viewer question the true intent of this sweeping rule, as the consequences fall into more of a gray area than what one would expect from divine punishment. Barciś’s character appears shortly after as a hospital employee who watches as Dorota tells her husband, barely bordering on consciousness, that she loves him.

Her husband’s ultimate survival plays out with one of the most Kieślowskian symbolic flourishes in the entirety of the series. He can be seen in his bed staring at a jar of strawberries that Dorota had brought for him earlier. A bee that flew into the sugary syrup remaining in the jar, is struggling to crawl up a straw and escape. Kieślowski keeps the camera on the bee for a long time, as it eventually crawls from its assured doom and escapes the jar. In this moment it is clear that Dorota’s husband will survive his supposedly terminal illness. Kieślowski cuts from the husband’s face to his wife’s who is playing in the philharmonic. The audience is to assume that this means that she has returned to her lover, following the doctor’s instructions to keep the child. However, in a following scene when Dorota’s husband goes to thank the doctor for his work, he makes it clear that they are still together and preparing to have a child. The story comes to an emotional climax as the husband asks “Do you know what that means? To have a child?” to which the doctor tearfully replies “Yes I do.”

The doctor’s response as the episode closes reflects his stories to the housekeeper. His father’s words, “everything tallies” prove to be true. Though the doctor tragically lost his family when he was young, the woman has miraculously recovered hers. The episode is filled with tragic irony, all of which can be traced back to its premise of not taking the Lord’s name in vain. The “consequence” of this sin by the doctor, is that Dorota’s husband miraculously and impossibly recovered from a deadly disease. Though it is implied that the doctor knew that the man would recover and simply wanted to ensure the survival of Dorota’s child, it is never made explicit. Either way, the power or ironic consequence in this episode largely contributes to its emotional impact, and the morbid relief that the audience feels at the resolution.

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