Krzysztof Piesiewicz

The Decalogue: Nine (1990, Krzysztof Kieslowski)

With Nine, writers Krzysztof Piesiewicz and Krzysztof Kieslowski have finally figured out how to parody themselves and the rest of The Decalogue. This entry, overwrought from the opening titles, is awful, but Piesiewicz and Kieslowski never quite commit to the more melodramatic, soap opera plotting they could. And Nine suffers for it.

Piotr Machalica is a successful surgeon who finds out he’s impotent. He dreads telling his wife (played by Ewa Blaszczyk in one of the more thankless roles in film history) because she obviously won’t love him anymore. Kieslowski’s direction hammers in all the symbolism–it becomes absurdist by the end (Nine actually plays far better as a comedy)–but he’s never able to establish any chemistry whatsoever between Machalica and Blaszczyk.

And why would there be any? She’s an awful, heartless woman; he’s a martyr for manhood.

Nine’s really lame. I’m actually surprised how bad it gets.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski; written by Krzysztof Piesiewicz and Kieslowski; director of photography, Piotr Sobocinski; edited by Ewa Smal; music by Zbigniew Preisner; production designer, Halina Dobrowolska; produced by Ryszard Chutkowski; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Piotr Machalica (Roman), Ewa Blaszczyk (Hanka), Jolanta Pietek-Górecka (Ola) and Jan Jankowski (Mariusz).


The Decalogue: Eight (1990, Krzysztof Kieslowski)

Eight is, unquestionably, great. At a certain point, it got good. And then Kieslowski didn’t screw up it being good. It started with problems, of course. The episode opens with Maria Koscialkowska as a lonely old college professor. Until Teresa Marczewska, a younger woman, shows up out of the blue to observe a class, it’s boring. It’s an ethics class. Where Kieslowski makes a reference to another episode of The Decalogue and all of a sudden he lets off some steam. For the first time ever.

That release of pressure, along with Koscialkowska’s fantastic performance, lets Kieslowski and co-writer Piesiewicz make the fantastical real and solid. And that reference to the other episode helps with it.

Then it keeps going and it keeps getting better and better. After twenty-two minutes, Kieslowski hits every note. Though it’s because Koscialkowska and Marczewska are great. Their performances make Eight something spectacular.

3/3Highly Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski; written by Krzysztof Piesiewicz and Kieslowski; director of photography, Andrzej Jaroszewicz; edited by Ewa Smal; music by Zbigniew Preisner; production designer, Halina Dobrowolska; produced by Ryszard Chutkowski; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Maria Koscialkowska (Zofia), Teresa Marczewska (Elzbieta) and Tadeusz Lomnicki (the tailor).


The Decalogue: Seven (1990, Krzysztof Kieslowski)

Seven is definitely one of the stronger Decalogue films, but Kieslowski can’t figure out what his best angle is into the story. The story is the thing of melodrama and soap opera–Maja Barelkowska’s character had a secret baby (fathered by her young teacher, Boguslaw Linda); her mother (Anna Polony) raised her granddaughter as her daughter. Barelkowska wants her back.

Kieslowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz’s script has way too much exposition–there are two or three scenes where everything stops so the characters talk about the past–but it’s pretty good when it comes to the characters acting in the present. And Kieslowski’s foreshadowing is mostly successful.

What isn’t successful is how Kieslowski and Piesiewicz treat Barelkowska. They can’t decide if she’s the victim or the villain. Never do they make her the protagonist. As a result, her performance’s weak. Everyone else is great though. Especially Katarzyna Piwowarczyk as the child.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski; written by Krzysztof Piesiewicz and Kieslowski; director of photography, Dariusz Kuc; edited by Ewa Smal; music by Zbigniew Preisner; production designer, Halina Dobrowolska; produced by Ryszard Chutkowski; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Anna Polony (Ewa), Maja Barelkowska (Majka), Wladyslaw Kowalski (Stefan), Boguslaw Linda (Wojtek) and Katarzyna Piwowarczyk (Ania).


The Decalogue: Six (1990, Krzysztof Kieslowski)

Six is a mess and it shouldn’t be, because at the center of it director Kieslowski has this phenomenal performance from Grazyna Szapolowska. He opens with her (doing some hippy thing where she “blesses” her food), then moves the story to her stalker, played by Olaf Lubaszenko.

Now, what eventually happens is Janet Leigh comes on to Norman Bates and he tries to kill himself and she realizes her wanton slutty modern woman ways have taken away her chance for godly happiness.

Along the way, there’s some truly amazing acting from Szapolowska and all these missed opportunities in Krzysztof Piesiewicz and Kieslowski’s script. Half the film goes to Lubaszenko peeping on her (it’d have been more effective, after all the melodramatics, if it had just been this odd stalking movie), then everything else is rushed. Including, unfortunately, when Szapolowska starts stalking him back.

Szapolowska’s performance deserved a far better script.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski; written by Krzysztof Piesiewicz and Kieslowski; director of photography, Witold Adamek; edited by Ewa Smal; music by Zbigniew Preisner; production designer, Halina Dobrowolska; produced by Ryszard Chutkowski; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Grazyna Szapolowska (Magda), Olaf Lubaszenko (Tomek), Stefania Iwinska (Godmother), Artur Barcis (Young Man), Stanislaw Gawlik (Postman) and Piotr Machalica (Roman).


The Decalogue: Five (1990, Krzysztof Kieslowski)

One has to admire Kieslowski’s dedication to his goal. Sure, Five–which is the “Thou shall not kill” episode of “The Decalogue”–is a terrible rumination on the death penalty, but Kieslowski is all in. For his flashback, he does a whole sepia tone filter thing. It’s not good in terms of how it shapes the film, but it’s competently executed by Slawomir Idziak. Sometimes even really well executed.

The sepia tone isn’t enough, however. The foreshadowing explaining why Miroslaw Baka just has to plot to murder a taxi driver (after causing a traffic accident from an overpass because he’s bored) gets repeated in the conclusion, in painfully bad exposition. For most of Five, Baka is a disaffected, sullen sociopathic punk rock kid. At the end, he’s the pleading Catholic who has lost his way.

And Kieslowski really misses the boat with Krzysztof Globisz’s crusading attorney.

Five’s a dreadful hour.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski; written by Krzysztof Piesiewicz and Kieslowski; director of photography, Slawomir Idziak; edited by Ewa Smal; music by Zbigniew Preisner; production designer, Halina Dobrowolska; produced by Ryszard Chutkowski; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Miroslaw Baka (Lazar Jacek), Krzysztof Globisz (Piotr), Jan Tesarz (Taxi Driver), Zbigniew Zapasiewicz (Police Inspector) and Barbara Dziekan (Cashier).


The Decalogue: Four (1990, Krzysztof Kieslowski)

With Four, Kieslowski engages with the television format of “The Decalogue” more than he has done before. No pun intended.

Four has a young woman discovering her father might not be her father, a fact he isn’t aware of either. Kieslowski and co-writer Piesiewicz don’t go so much for thought-provoking as discussion-provoking. Each moment in the episode is begging to be discussed, not analyzed.

Why not analyzed? Because Kieslowski and Piesiewicz create a closed system; they quarantine the sensational plot developments.

Playing the daughter, Adrianna Biedrzynska is okay. Kieslowski and editor Ewa Smal make sure to leave the viewer hints at where things are going. It’s more roadside billboards than ominous foreshadowing, particularly because the script’s structure is so soggy. Four stops and goes, stops and goes.

As a filmed play, it’s nearly successful (thanks to Biedrzynska and understated Janusz Gajos as the father).

As is? No.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski; written by Krzysztof Piesiewicz and Kieslowski; director of photography, Krzysztof Pakulski; edited by Ewa Smal; music by Zbigniew Preisner; production designer, Halina Dobrowolska; produced by Ryszard Chutkowski; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Adrianna Biedrzynska (Anka), Janusz Gajos (Michal), Tomasz Kozlowicz (Jarek), Andrzej Blumenfeld (Michal’s Friend), Elzbieta Kilarska (Jarek’s Mother), Adam Hanuszkiewicz (Professor) and Helena Norowicz (Doctor).


The Decalogue: Three (1990, Krzysztof Kieslowski)

How much one likes Three might be related to how much manipulation one is willing to put up with from a filmmaker. Kieslowski is masterful with manipulation this episode, so much so he doesn’t even pause when visibly guiding the viewer through. He isn’t ashamed, he isn’t proud, it’s just how he does things. It’s too inept to be pretentious.

The best example from Three is the idiotic car chase. Kieslowski and photographer Piotr Sobocinski don’t stage it competently. For all Kieslowski’s flourishes, moving ones escape him. He rarely attempts them (which makes the car chase particularly jarring).

The story has a reformed if unapologetic adulterer (Daniel Olbrychski) out for a Christmas Eve overnight with his former lover, Maria Pakulnis, looking for her husband. Is she mentally sound? Will he discover some dark secret?

After teasing some depth, Kieslowski goes a really simple route. Three moves fine, just goes nowhere.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski; written by Krzysztof Piesiewicz and Kieslowski; director of photography, Piotr Sobocinski; edited by Ewa Smal; music by Zbigniew Preisner; production designer, Halina Dobrowolska; produced by Ryszard Chutkowski; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Daniel Olbrychski (Janusz), Maria Pakulnis (Ewa) and Joanna Szczepkowska (Janusz’ Wife).


The Decalogue: Two (1990, Krzysztof Kieslowski)

This episode of “The Decalogue” is a quiet, thoughtful story about a doctor and the wife of one of his patients. They’re neighbors, which puts them in an uncomfortable proximity as the wife has a secret from her husband and forces the doctor into her confidence.

The scenes between these characters–the doctor played by Aleksander Bardini, the wife by Krystyna Janda–amount for probably fifteen minutes of Two. The film runs almost an hour; most of the time, Kieslowski is examining Bardini and Janda. He applies a different level of focus throughout; Janda isn’t clear until the end, but Bardini’s character’s most telling scene is his first. There’s more exposition later, further exploration into his life to explain him, but it’s not telling, just interesting.

And beautifully acted. Kieslowski never goes overboard with symbolism, but Two wouldn’t work near as well without the fantastic performances from Bardini and Janda.

3/3Highly Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski; written by Kieslowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz; directors of photography, Edward Klosinski and Wieslaw Zdort; edited by Ewa Smal; music by Zbigniew Preisner; production designer, Halina Dobrowolska; produced by Ryszard Chutkowski; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Krystyna Janda (Dorota Geller), Aleksander Bardini (Doctor) and Olgierd Lukaszewicz (Andrzej Geller).


The Decalogue: One (1989, Krzysztof Kieslowski)

For the first episode of “The Decalogue,” director Kieslowski and co-writer Krzysztof Piesiewicz go straight for the jugular. Kieslowski fills the episode with foreshadowing until it spills over. And no symbolism is too obvious.

One is about a computer programming professor (Henryk Baranowski) and his similarly tech-enthusiastic son (Wojciech Klata). The tech is poorly visualized–in one scene, Baranowski runs a couple DIR commands and Kieslowski treats it like the second coming, which is the point. These fellows have abandoned God for their home computer.

Or maybe Baranowski is just a really bad dad. One’s full of symbolism, one’s full of story. Kieslowski goes with the former.

Both Klata and Baranowski are good in too obviously written roles. Great music from Zbigniew Preisner and lovely photography by Wieslaw Zdort.

What’s strange is how Kieslowski trusts the viewer to understand the little stuff, but not the big, obvious stuff.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski; written by Kieslowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz; director of photography, Wieslaw Zdort; edited by Ewa Smal; music by Zbigniew Preisner; production designer, Halina Dobrowolska; produced by Ryszard Chutkowski; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Henryk Baranowski (Krzysztof), Wojciech Klata (Pawel), Maja Komorowska (Irena), Maria Gladkowska (Girl) and Ewa Kania (Ewa Jezierska).


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