Restorations Reviews

(11) Dekalog (Blu-ray release)

Dekalog III: Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

The holy day in question here is Christmas Eve, which is when part III of Dekalog takes place. The episode beings with Janusz (Daniel Olbrychski) dressed as Santa Claus as he is going to see his children. He crosses paths with Krzysztof (from Dekalog I) at the door to the building, who looks on enviously as Janusz visits with his family. After shedding his Santa costume, he goes to church where he spots Ewa (Maria Pakulnis), with whom he once had an affair, but doesn’t approach her.

Kieślowski declines to explicitly define a protagonist for Dekalog III, instead switching perspectives as is convenient. After mysteriously abandoning her car, Ewa calls on Janusz at his apartment by anonymously claiming that someone mysterious was spotted around his taxi. Ewa explains that her husband is missing and implores Janusz to help her find him. Janusz explains to his suspicious wife that the taxi was stolen and he has to go search for it as it is how they make their living.

decalogue-3As the night proceeds, Kieślowski forces the viewer to question Ewa’s motives. While it is made clear when she frames the car as having been abandoned by her husband, she is not being entirely honest with Janusz; her actions throughout the rest of the episode are clearly acts of deception. At one point Ewa goes up to her apartment, claiming that she will signal Janusz to come up if her husband is not there. She uses the time to arrange her apartment to make it look like her husband had been there. When she goes up, Janusz tells her “if he’s there goodbye,” and then whispers to himself, “bye.” It is clear that he still has complicated feelings toward her, but is prepared to say goodbye to her forever. It is with some sadness that he says these words. When he goes to her apartment, he begins to figure out that the evidence of her husband’s presence had been planted by Ewa.

It is while the two are on the streets searching for Ewa’s husband that Kieślowski gives us our run-in with Barciś, who drives a train that the pair play a game of chicken with. Barciś stares straight ahead unflinching, as the two steer Janusz’ car away at the last second. Later, Ewa grabs the wheel from Janusz and steers his car sharply into a nearby Christmas tree, knocking it over. She apologizes to him for damaging his taxi.

Finally, Ewa shows Janusz a photograph of her husband who has lived in Krakow for three years with his new family. She explains that she was playing a morbid game. If she could keep him with her until 7, she would not commit suicide. She took his cooperation as an omen that her loneliness would soon come to an end.

When Janusz returns home, it is evident that his wife is familiar with his history with Ewa, and knows that that’s who he was out with. She does not get angry, but instead simply asks him, “Will you be spending nights out again?” He responds, “No, no I won’t.” It is clear that the events of the night with Ewa have given him some clarity on the value of his family. He sees the way that her life has collapsed, and he now understands the importance of his wife and children. The viewer is left to assume that Janusz will not be disappearing anymore- that he will remain loyal and faithful to his wife and respect the sanctity of his bond with his family.

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