Restorations Reviews

(11) Dekalog (Blu-ray release)

Dekalog VI: Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Dekalog VI is the second of the episodes that Kieślowski would go on to turn into features, this one titled A Short Film About Love. The episode tries to approach the theme of love in a way that isn’t entirely obvious or expected. It revolves around Tomek (Olaf Lubaszenko) and Magda (Grazyna Szapolowska). Tomek lives with the mother of his friend (Stefania Iwinska), and he admires Magda from afar as she lives across a courtyard from him. The opening of the film paints Tomek as a malicious presence, as the narrative switches between Magda arriving home and Tomek breaking into a building. It turns out, Tomek is stealing a telescope with which to observe Magda from his own window. Kieślowski uses this opportunity to make the audience feel that Tomek’s intent is sinister, before revealing the minor theft. 

As the episode progresses, Tomek does anything he can to get close to Magda. As a post office worker, he repeatedly sends her forged notices that she has money orders to pick up so she will come into the post office. Overhearing that the local grocery store needs a milkman, he takes the job so he can deliver to her. The milk becomes a repeated plot device throughout the episode.

When Tomek watches Magda’s actions, he grows increasingly jealous of her boyfriend. Kieślowski makes a point to highlight the sexual nature of their relationship, as the audience will later learn that Magda essentially views sex and love as the same thing. When she has a fight with the man later, she begins to sit down to cry, when she knocks over and spills her bottle of milk.

dekalogThe turning point comes when Magda gets into a confrontation with Tomek’s supervisor over the fake postal notices and he confesses his love for her. Her initial reaction is to toy with him. She points him out to her boyfriend who challenges him from the courtyard. When Tomek comes out to face the fight like a man, Magda’s boyfriend knocks him down in one punch. The idea that Tomek has the desire, but not necessarily the emotional capacity to confront adult issues is prevalent throughout the episode. In many ways, he is still a child. However, he desires to be viewed- especially in Magda’s eyes- as a man.

When she finally speaks with him as he delivers her milk, she asks him if he wants to kiss her, to which he says no. Then she asks if he wants to make love to her, again he says no. She finally asks simply what he wants from her. “Nothing,” he replies, and he asks her to come to a cafe to get ice cream with him, again highlighting his child-like mentality. As he leaves Magda’s building, running happily, he encounters Barciś whom he splashes with his milk cart. He apologizes, makes brief eye contact with Barciś, and runs away. The camera remains on Barciś, as he smiles for a moment at Tomek’s happiness.

In a very Kieślowskian moment, Magda proposes a game as the pair leave the cafe. She says that if they catch the bus then they’ll go back to her place, but if they miss it they’ll go their separate ways. It looks at first as if the bus will pull away and leave the pair behind, but it stops at the last moment and allows them on. The scene in Magda’s apartment is a masterpiece of sexual tension. Tomek shows his inexperience as his hands shake whenever Magda asks him to touch her. On the other hand, Magda is painted as very experienced and cynical about the nature of love and romance.

As the two become more intimate, the friend’s mother with whom Tomek lives watches them through the telescope. Magda prompts Tomek to touch her between her legs, but as his hands slide down her thighs, he climaxes early. Her response is to tell him, “that’s all there is to love.” When he runs out of the apartment, she becomes upset. Another well orchestrated sequence is constructed as the narrative switches between Magda writing an apology note to flash at Tomek through her window, and Tomek removing the blade from the razor in his bathroom. The scene comes to a peak as Tomek dips his hands in a sink full of water, and the water turns red as blood pours from his wrists.

Magda spends the next several days trying to track down Tomek. When she goes to the apartment he lives in, the old woman declines to give her much information. It is clear that she doesn’t approve of Magda, and only tells her that he is in the hospital and urges her not to visit him as he gets better. Magda learns from her mailman that Tomek slit his own wrists due to a broken heart. When he is finally released from the hospital, she tracks him down at the post office. She greets him with a smile of relief. He looks at her and happily says “I don’t watch you anymore,” as her smile fades away.

Kieślowski actually alters the ending of the episode versus the feature film. In the end of the film, Magda visits an unconscious, bandaged Tomek in his bedroom and she looks through the telescope seeing what he saw of her. This ending seems to be more ambiguous, while the end of the episode is a bit more pessimistic. Though it is not clear what will happen to the characters, it is clear that the relationship had a parasitic nature, as Magda feeds off of Tomek’s dependence on her. Though it seems that she has had a change of heart after Tomek’s suicide attempt, he has similarly had second thoughts as he is no longer obsessed with her.

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