A Short Film About Killing—Dekalog: Five (1988)
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This film makes us confront on a visceral level the horror of taking a human life, even the life of someone we might find despicable. It is the fifth installment of Dekalog, the famous Polish TV series inspired by the Ten Commandments.
Dekalog: Five, which was expanded into the feature-length A Short Film About Killing, coincided with an intense debate over capital punishment in Poland, and in the year of its release (1988) the nation finally suspended use of the death penalty.
Catholic film scholar Maria Elena de las Carreras often uses Dekalog: Five to teach her students at Cal State Northridge about the value of life. She brings a lively energy to the discussion along with a deep knowledge of Polish cinema and, in general, the work of filmmakers living in totalitarian regimes.
Thomas tracked Maria Elena down because of an article on Kieslowski she wrote for Crisis magazine twenty years ago—which, she tells us, she sent to Pope John Paul II, and received a letter from his secretary saying it had been read “with great interest”.
Next in our discussion of the Vatican film list: William Wyler’s epic Ben-Hur (1959), starring Charlton Heston.
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.
Maria Elena de las Carreras article on Kieslowski https://www.crisismagazine.com/2000/filming-the-10-commandments-kieslowski-as-a-catholic-director
Her writings on film at Crisis Magazine https://www.crisismagazine.com/author/kuntz
More writings https://csun.academia.edu/MariaElenadelasCarreras
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Music is The Duskwhales, “Take It Back”, used with permission. https://theduskwhales.bandcamp.com/
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