“Everything is yours”—Dekalog: Ten (1988)
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In the 50th episode of Criteria, James and Thomas finally conclude their look at Dekalog, the series of short films inspired by the Ten Commandments which Krzysztof Kieslowski made for Polish television in the late 1980s.
Kieslowski concludes his notoriously bleak series on a (slightly) lighter note, the Tenth Commandment against coveting thy neighbor’s goods providing plenty of opportunities to poke fun at human silliness. The absurdity is compounded when the thing being coveted is a stamp collection.
Though Dekalog: Ten begins with one of its main characters singing a song that encourages the breaking of all 10 commandments, with the refrain “everything is yours”, in this episode the protagonists are less the chief transgressors against the tenth commandment than they are stuck in a world shaped by the covetousness of those around them.
These two brothers inherit a valuable stamp collection from their father, who neglected them in order to pursue his obsession. Along with the stamps they inherit, for a dangerous moment, his vice of covetousness, and in doing so, come to understand that that he craved was not so much the stamps as the escape from all problems and responsibilities provided by this juvenile quest.
Thus the final Dekalog film continues the series’ continual examination of the sins of fathers, and through this subject matter, Kieslowski’s preoccupation with the terrible responsibility of human freedom and the stark consequences our actions have in the lives of others. For nobody has more responsibility than a father.
In this case, the sons find some degree of reconciliation with the dead father who wounded them—or at least, they arrive at understanding through solidarity in weakness. The film’s rueful observation is that we often understand and compassionate our parents only after falling into their same vices.
Dekalog can be difficult to find. It can be streamed online with a (relatively cheap and surprisingly legal) subscription to https://easterneuropeanmovies.com—the best viewing experience, however, will be the recent restored edition on Blu-Ray/DVD from Criterion. https://www.criterion.com/films/28661-dekalog
Older editions on Blu-Ray and DVD are available for considerably cheaper on Amazon and elsewhere, and you may have luck borrowing Dekalog from your local library.
Music is The Duskwhales, “Take It Back”, used with permission. https://theduskwhales.bandcamp.com/
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