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Decalogue, The - IV: "Honor Thy Father And Thy Mother." (1989)
Genre: Drama (Poland)
Starring: Adrianna Biedrzynska, Janusz Gajos (Three Colours: White)
Directed By: Krzysztof Kieslowski (The Double Life Of Veronique; Three Colours Trilogy)
Overview: Anya and her Father have a very good relationship, but when he leaves on a trip, she finds a letter that reads "Do not open until after my death". Curiosity might just get the better of her.
The players of Decalogue IV are a father, a twenty-year-old daughter and a deceased mother in the form of a past-churning letter. The father and daughter share more of a friendship than a familial bond, and the occasional scene where an awkward crossover of the muddy relationship they have is done perfectly subtly.
Yet again, we have a standard fare of a shooting style that is naturalistic, yet includes occasional moments of 'camera as narrator' with voyeuristic shots that could easily symbolize God's watchful eye, though for this particular episode the watchful lens could be interpreted on a far baser level.
My favorite part of this short film's dialogue was the visit to the past, the story of the mother who died when the daughter was only five days old. Rather than making her a glorious Madonna, she's as real as any of the characters in The Decalogue, all with their failings, all distinct in their flaws.
Essentially, this episode is an exploration into many interpretations of this Commandment. The consequence of not paying heed to her father's request of "do not open" snowballs into a shattering of the established relationship between the two, and then to the question of incest, not to mention the lack of honouring of the deceased mother, and her confusion-inviting letter. A well-paced and well-told tale.
Kieslowski's got a way of making everything mildly depressing. Here, as usual, he doesn't pull back any punches in his rehashing of life, death, and relationship questions that should have been raised aeons ago, if at all. Decalogue IV explores this sin in a very honest and human fashion, putting the people before the situation, making it a story of characters before being a moral lesson.
Overall Rating: 76% (Get On 'Er)
Four episodes in, I realize that The Decalogue's showcased sin is often broken in many different ways, or several times throughout its episode. It's also nice to see a change in the themes of sin, since the first three are rooted more in sins unto God rather than sin unto people, and I'm looking forward to how Kieslowski will cover the more 'obvious wrongdoings' such as theft and killing. It's easy to see why this makes a nice long serial.