Blog Archives

Inspired by ‘A Swedish Love Story’: Films That Bring Back Memories

Celebrating the Life and Work of Krzysztof Kieslowski

Double Review: A Short Film About Killing (1988) and A Short Film About Love (1988)

The 2011 Bi-Annual DVD Haul

Dekalog: Ten Hours of Amazing, Pure Cinema

Recently, I’ve become a huge fan of the films of Krzysztof Kieslowski. I watched The Double Life of Veronique and the Three Colours trilogy, but there was one vital piece of the puzzle missing: Dekalog. It is perhaps his most acclaimed work, and more effort probably went into this than any other of his brilliant movies.

It is a series of ten films, each just short of an hour long, totalling up to about 9 1/2 hours in full duration. Each “episode” deals with one of the famous Ten Commandments of the Bible, but Kielowski goes about presenting his vision of these commandments in modern life in a strikingly un-religious manner. Religion is not a key part of any of the films, particularly, and the challenges and problems the characters face are all realistic scenarios that some of us might face.

In the first episode, a father and son contemplate the importance and reliance of technology as a new age dawns. In #2, an adulterous woman turns her reliance to a doubtful doctor who must make a difficult choices. In #3, a man spends the night on a hunt for a missing husband with his ex-lover. In #4, a teenage girl discovers a letter from her deceased mother bringing into question the true place of her father in her life. In #5, perhaps the best and most striking instalment, a man commits a vicious, violent, unmotivated murder and a young, rookie lawyer comes to his aid. #6 tells of a nervous young man who spies on a woman across the way with his telescope, analysing her highly sexual but chillingly lonesome lifestyle. In #7, a young woman’s daughter struggles to accept her as her mother after being raised to believe she’s actually her sister. #8 deals with a woman who struggled through World War II and revisits the woman who accidentally changed her life during that hard time. In #9, an impotent man tests his wife to see if she would really cheat on him, when he himself has spent his life fooling around, and in #10, two brothers come into ownership of their late father’s stamp collection, worth tens of millions.

The plots are all interesting ones. Some might not seem original to the observing reader, but Kieslowski takes them to amazing places, making them some of the most original, touching and stunning works of art ever made. Though when he made this, Kieslowski had never made a popular or successful film, we can see this is a man dedicated to cinema, who has a vision of art that is completely unique to his movies. We can see from Dekalog, perhaps more so than from any of his other films, that Kieslowski knows what he’s doing and manages to compel the audience and throw them into some amazing stories, with new twists around each corner. Take for example, Dekalog 5. A strange, sick man wanders around town before, out of nowhere and without reason, he strangles a taxi driver to death. The murder is visceral and difficult to watch. He is sentenced to death, and many of us think, rightfully so. But here’s where Kieslowski’s sly attitude comes creeping in. Throughout the second half, we begin to know the man and learn more about his life, to the point that when the hour comes for him to be hanged, we are screaming in objection. Kieslowski manages to completely change the audience’s attitude to the character, within a manner of minutes. This is skill.

Kieslowski also uses a different cinematographer for each film (save for one man, whom he uses twice), to give each instalment its own unique feel. Perhaps the films are meant to be thought of as one, but it seems easier to classify it that way. His characters are real, feel real, and have moments of humanity so lifelike that it’s almost enough to make you cry. Some of them are intensely saddening (#1, #5, #7, notably), and others noticeably light (#3, #9), as Kieslowski touches every end of the emotional spectrum and in between. Watching Dekalog is like watching one single person’s life, as all the days and hours and events flicker away and we are left with the happenings of a day in our mind, until another day starts and we have new things to think about. We meet a variety of people in here, and the film covers ten simple plots made incredibly personal. Kieslowski really hits the bat close to home, and the moment we finish one episode we have a hundred things to think about. How has this affected me? What is Kieslowski trying to say? We can only see in the perfectly framed shots of life in action, as people are affected in shocking, personal ways and we watch vividly, unable to intervene.

Dekalog is cinema. Plain and simple. No, better yet… Dekalog is life. Dekalog covers everything: love, loss, hatred, happiness, confusion, loneliness and comfort; the hundreds of emotions we all feel every day are squeezed down into a surprisingly quick ten hours of amazing, pure cinema.

Watch Dekalog. You might learn something about the Ten Commandments, you might learn something about cinema, you might learn something about emotion. Who knows? You might even learn something about yourself.

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If you’ve seen the movie/s, leave a comment letting me know what you thought of them and my review. If you haven’t seen it/them… what are you waiting for? Go! Go now!

Thanks for reading.

The Checklist: Movies I Must See

 

Let’s get a couple of things straight: I am a movie fanatic. I love movies. If ever there were movie lovers, I would make the list by a mile. But alas, I have not been a movie lover my whole life. It was only at the end of 2009, I decided to make a New Years resolution: get more into movies. And so, over the course of 2010, I scoured through all the shortlists of great movies and tried to knock off as many as I could. Of the famous 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book, I have seen 193 movies, and counting. When I first purchased the book at the beginning of 2010, I’d only seen 51. I was not experienced with movies, they’d never really interested me. But when I delved into the complex and invigorating wonderland that is film, I fell in love with it. Now more than a year later, I am a fanatic. Every day I watch two movies, minimum, and 80% of the time they are movies I’ve never seen before. I have a Hell of a time checking all those movies off my must-see list and I believe I’ve only ever seen around 600-700 movies in my entire lifetime. Not many. I keep a regular log of the movies I watch, and always write reviews of at least three or four sentences. I give the films a rating on a scale of one to ten, and there are only about 25 movies I’ve ever rated ten. I’m relatively young, too, so I have my whole life ahead of me to complete the difficult challenge of becoming a true movie know-it-all. This is my goal. Before 2010, I barely ever went to the theatre. Now I go at least two or three times a month, wisely choosing which I view. Though it’s healthy to watch a substantial amount of rubbish movies (to help you better appreciate the definition of a good movie), I tend to stick more to classics and more well-received movies.

I have a Top 10o Movies List, ranking my favourite one hundred movies, and I intend to post the list to my blog soon enough. Until then, I will keep watching the movies, reviewing and letting my opinion be heard. Here’s a checklist of movies I really want to see, and I will gradually check each one off.

In random order:

The Seventh Seal

The Third Man

Come and See

Star Wars: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi

Gone With the Wind

It’s A Wonderful Life

The Lord of the Rings trilogy

Citizen Kane

Wild Strawberries

Cinema Paradiso

Singin’ In The Rain

Braveheart

Metropolis

Oldboy

Ran

Judgment at Nuremberg

Platoon

Any of the films of Federico Fellini, but particularly La Strada and 8 1/2

Any of the films of Woody Allen (I’ve only seen Annie Hall, gasp!)

Intolerance

Greed

The King of Comedy

Mean Streets

The Godfather: Part III

Rosemary’s Baby (well, not necessarily this, but anything by Polanski)

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

Spartacus (the only Kubrick I haven’t seen!)

The Straight Story (the only Lynch I haven’t seen!)

Any popular sport movie that does not star Rosie O’Donnell

Carlito’s Way

All About My Mother

The Decalogue

Any movie that lasts longer than 3 hours (I’m a freak for excessively long movies!)

Nashville

On The Waterfront

Any of the great, surreal cinematic masterpieces of the 1920s or 1960s, the two most eventful periods for film development.

That one with that guy who was in that movie that was out last year?

So I think, off the top of my head, that’s basically the list. Please, tell me in the comments what you think of these movies if you’ve seen any of them. I know I’ll get around to watching them all eventually. Did you like them? Did you hate them? Inform me, and when I check them off, I’ll be sure to write a review. BTW, if I had to place one of these at the top of the list of must-sees, it would be Nashville. I’m a complete Altman whore.

Thanks for reading.

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