Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Decalogue: Three

Third Commandment: Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.

After a very mixed two week stretch in which guarded highs and lows feeling like I got punche
d in the gut have left me disoriented and directionless, I realize that what I need is to just continue to write while I pursue some options and wait on situations to further develop. More on this in a week or two when I know more about it, but as I watched the third film in Krzysztof Kieslowski’s The Decalogue about a week ago and haven’t written anything about it, I’ll take it as an opportunity to dip my toes back in the water.

Kieslowski misfires in the third entry in his series, something that caused me to have little to no opi
nion on the film and thus little inclination to sit down and write up thoughts on it. On Christmas Eve, Janusz returns home from his job as a taxi driver dressed as Santa Claus in order to amuse his small children. On the way into the building, he passes Krzysztof, the professor whose son died in the first film, reminding the viewer of the importance of family and the extent to which these events all take place in a small fixed area. Paralleled to Janusz and his family, we also see Ewa visit her senile aunt at a nursing home. As we soon learn, Ewa and Janusz were former lovers and will spend most of the night together, though unromantically. Later most of the town attends a Midnight Mass and the two notice each other in the congregation.

While the events of the first two entries are associated with the internal journeys of the characters within, the weakness in the third entry stems from the lack of direction for these characters and their journey. Ewa comes to Janusz to ask his help tracking down her husband who has gone missing, the two spend the bulk of the narrative trying to find him, and then Ewa admits at the conclusion that he left her three years ago when he discovered Ewa and Janusz together. Kieslowski slowly reveals all the background information, so the viewer is engaged in pursuing a mystery him or herself, which parallels the characters, I suppose, though I wasn’t all that invested in deciphering the clues.

Nothing is resolved with the events of the episode. Ewa having confessed to Janusz her deception, realizes that while he is the only one who truly knows her (after her husband left and her aunt is rendered senile), he is now unavailable and feels little more than fond nostalgia and pity for her. Returning home, Janusz’s wife asks whether he was out with Ewa and whether that meant he’d be gone at nights from now on; he replies no, and that brief scene at the very end is so well acted that I wish we had seen a focus between these two characters with Ewa playing a secondary role.

Where I am baffled is how this story relates to the commandment to keep the
Sabbath day holy. Assuming that Christmas Eve, one of the holiest days, is representative of the Sabbath, perhaps Janusz should have remembered to put his priorities with his family and not be so torn with regards to his feelings for Ewa. But perhaps he helps her out of a sense of doing what is right, especially on the Sabbath, and by not giving in to a desire to sleep with her, is an example of not violating the Sabbath.

In all, this is a weak entry that up until this point had been a stellar series. A friend tells me that the fourth film was the most powerful for her, and I look forward to reviewing that for you tomorrow.

No comments: