The Decalogue V and VI: the destiny of a masterpiece

Film still of Dekalog V © RR

Having attended his first Festival de Cannes in 1987 with Blind Chance in Un Certain Regard, the Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski shot to public attention a year later with A Short Film about Killing, the fifth part of the Decalogue, which picked up the Prix du Jury and took the Croisette by storm. Cannes Classics now offers a chance to relive the emotions of that day with a screening of restored copies of the Decalogue V and VI.

Inspired by the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament, the ten chapters focus on the residents in a single tower block in Warsaw who are faced with major moral decisions, all of which come together to form a unique work, the Decalogue. Half way through the series, episodes V and VI explore the themes of murder and lust.

If I had to describe the central message of the Decalogue, it would be: “live considerately, look around you, take care that your actions do not harm others or hurt them, or bring them grief”.

In deeply Catholic Poland, these films were deemed far too intimate and bizarre, and at first struggled to be viewed beyond the country's borders. But in 1988 A Short Film about Killing was selected in Competition at the Festival de Cannes and shocked viewers, with many of the audience walking out. Yet the event marked the beginning of Kieslowski's international recognition. In 1989 he was invited to the Venice Film Festival to present the entire Decalogue in a world première. It was a new revelation for the Press. And yet it was still some time before the entire series could be exported to foreign distribution channels and brought before a wider public. Today the film is considered to be "one of the masterpieces of modern cinema".

A presentation by MK2 and TVP. Restored in 2K based on the original negative by TVP. The calibration of the various episodes was supervised by the lead operators of each episode.