Blu-ray box set cover
Directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski
Produced by Ryszard Chutkowski
Written by Krzysztof Kieślowski
Krzysztof Piesiewicz
Starring Artur Barciś
see below
Music by Zbigniew Preisner
Cinematography Wieslaw Zdort
Piotr Sobociński
Edited by Ewa Smal
Distributed by Warner Bros. (Poland)
Release dates
  • 10 December 1989 (1989-12-10)
Running time
572 minutes
Country Poland
Language Polish
Budget $100,000 (all parts)
Box office $447,093[1]

Dekalog (pronounced [dɛˈkalɔg], also known as Dekalog: The Ten Commandments and The Decalogue) is a 1989 Polish television drama series directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski[2] and co-written by Kieślowski with Krzysztof Piesiewicz, with music by Zbigniew Preisner.[3] It consists of ten one-hour films, inspired by the Ten Commandments.[4] Each short film explores one or several moral or ethical issues faced by characters living in an austere apartment block in modern Poland.

The series is Kieślowski's most acclaimed work, has been said to be "the best dramatic work ever done specifically for television" [5] and has won numerous international awards, though it was not widely released outside Europe until the late 1990s.[6] Filmmaker Stanley Kubrick wrote an admiring foreword to the published screenplay in 1991.[7]


Though each film is independent, most of them share the same setting (a large housing project in Warsaw), and some of the characters are acquainted with each other. The large cast includes both famous actors and unknowns, many of whom Kieślowski also used in his other films. Typically for Kieślowski, the tone of most of the films is melancholic, except for the final one, which, like Three Colors: White, is a black comedy, and features two of the same actors, Jerzy Stuhr and Zbigniew Zamachowski.

The series was conceived when Krzysztof Piesiewicz, who had seen a 15th-century artwork illustrating the Commandments in scenes from that time period, suggested the idea of a modern equivalent. Krzysztof Kieślowski was interested in the philosophical challenge and also wanted to use the series as a portrait of the hardships of Polish society, while deliberately avoiding the political issues he had depicted in earlier films. He originally meant to hire ten different directors, but decided to direct the films himself, though using a different cinematographer for each with exception of episodes III and IX, both of which used Piotr Sobociński as director of photography.[8]


The ten films are titled simply by number (e.g. Dekalog: One). According to Roger Ebert's introduction to the DVD set,[9] Kieślowski said that the films did not correspond exactly to the commandments, and never used their names himself.

The themes of Dekalog can be interpreted in many different ways; however, each film has its own literality:[10]

Commandment (Roman Catholic Enumeration) Ideal Kieślowskian Theme
I am the Lord thy God... thou shalt not have other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image... Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them. The sanctity of God and worship Idolization of science
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. The sanctity of speech Names as fundamental to identify and moral choice; the importance of one's word in human life.
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. The sanctity of time Time designations (holidays, day/night etc.) as repositories of meaning
Honor thy father and thy mother. The sanctity of authority Familial and social relationship as regulators of identity
Thou shalt not kill. The sanctity of life Murder and Punishment
Thou shalt not commit adultery. The sanctity of love The nature and relation of love and passion
Thou shalt not steal. The sanctity of dominion Possession as human need and temptation
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. The sanctity of truth The difficulties of truth amid desperate evil
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife. The sanctity of contentment Sex, jealousy, and faithfulness
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods. The sanctity of contentment Greed and relationships


Episode Cast Cinematography
Dekalog: One Henryk Baranowski
Wojciech Klata
Maja Komorowska
Wiesław Zdort
Dekalog: Two Krystyna Janda
Aleksander Bardini
Olgierd Łukaszewicz
Edward Klosiński
Dekalog: Three Daniel Olbrychski
Maria Pakulnis
Joanna Szczepowska
Piotr Sobociński
Dekalog: Four Adrianna Biedrzyńska
Janusz Gajos
Adam Hanuszkiewicz
Krzysztof Pakulski
Dekalog: Five Mirosław Baka
Jan Tesarz
Krzysztof Globisz
Sławomir Idziak
Dekalog: Six Olaf Lubaszenko
Grażyna Szapołowska
Witold Adamek
Dekalog: Seven Anna Polony
Maja Barełkowska
Katarzyna Piwowarczyk
Dariusz Kuc
Dekalog: Eight Teresa Marczewska
Maria Kościałkowska
Andrzej Jaroszewicz
Dekalog: Nine Ewa Błaszczyk
Piotr Machalica
Jan Jankowski
Piotr Sobociński
Dekalog: Ten Jerzy Stuhr
Zbigniew Zamachowski
Jacek Bławut

Recurring character of Artur Barciś

There is a nameless character, played by Polish actor Artur Barciś and possibly meant to be a supernatural figure, who observes the main characters at key moments but never intervenes (this character appears in all episodes except episodes 7 and 10).

Episode Character played by Artur Barciś
Dekalog: One A homeless man sitting by a fire near the lake
Dekalog: Two An orderly in the hospital
Dekalog: Three A tram driver
Dekalog: Four A man rowing a boat and later seen carrying the boat
Dekalog: Five A construction worker holding a measuring pole and then as a different construction worker carrying a ladder
Dekalog: Six A man carrying bags of groceries
Dekalog: Seven Does not appear (Barciś was meant to be a man at the railway station, but Kieślowski experienced technical difficulties including him in this episode)[11]
Dekalog: Eight A student at the university
Dekalog: Nine A man riding a bicycle
Dekalog: Ten Does not appear


Milk is a symbolic element in some of the films.

Episode Occurrence of milk in The Decalogue
Dekalog: One The milk is sour.
Dekalog: Two The doctor carries milk almost all the time.
Dekalog: Four Michał leaves the house to buy milk.
Dekalog: Six Tomek becomes a milkman. Magda spills milk on the table.
Dekalog: Seven Ewa tries to breastfeed Ania without any milk. Wojtek tells Majka that Ania needs a home with milk.
Dekalog: Eight There is an unopened bottle of milk on the table while Zofia and Elżbieta are having dinner.
Dekalog: Nine Roman is pouring milk while watching a child play.


Dekalog was admired by critics as well as by important figures from the film industry such as Stanley Kubrick.[12]

The DVD box issue holds 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 28 reviews.[13] The series was also praised by some renowned film critics, including Roger Ebert[14] and Robert Fulford.[15]

In the 2002 Sight & Sound poll to determine the greatest films of all time, Dekalog and A Short Film About Killing received votes from 4 critics and 3 directors, including Ebert, New Yorker critic David Denby, and director Mira Nair.[16] Additionally, in the Sight & Sound poll held the same year to determine the top 10 films of the previous 25 years, Kieslowski was named #2 on the list of Top Directors, with votes for his films being split between Dekalog, Three Colors Red/Blue, and The Double Life of Veronique.[17]

In 2002, the film was also listed among the Top 100 "Essential Films" of all time by the National Society of Film Critics[18] and ranked #36 in Empire magazine's "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema" in 2010.[19]

According to online film resource They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?, Dekalog is the most acclaimed film of 1988.[20]

Longer feature films

Kieślowski expanded Five and Six into longer feature films (A Short Film About Killing and A Short Film About Love), using the same cast and changing the stories slightly. This was part of a contractual obligation with the producers, since feature films were easier to distribute outside Poland. In 2000, the series was released on five DVDs, each containing two parts of about 2 hours.


  1. "Dekalog (1989) - Box office / business". Internet Movie Database. 2000-11-27. Retrieved 2012-05-27.
  2. Bio of Krysztof Kieślowski on
  3. Series overview
  4. Ten Commandmentw on
  5. Fulford, Robert - The National Post, 14 May 2002
  6. Critical response on
  7. Stanley Kubrick review of the film on
  8. The Decalogue cinematographers on
  9. Film critic Robert Ebert's introduction info/review of the series on
  10. Kickasola, Joseph G. (2006). The Films of Krzysztof Kieślowski:The Liminal Image. Continuum (Bloomsbury Publishing). p. 164. ISBN 978-0-826-41559-2. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  11. Stok, Danusia, ed. (1993). Kieślowski on Kieślowski. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 0-571-17328-4
  12. Critical response to the film on
  13. Dekalog at Rotten Tomatoes
  14. Film review by Roger Ebert on
  15. Film review by Robert Fulford on
  16. 2002 Sight & Sound Poll - All who voted for Dekalog
  17. Modern Times
  18. Carr, Jay (2002). The A List: The National Society of Film Critics' 100 Essential Films. Da Capo Press. p. 81. ISBN 978-0-306-81096-1. Retrieved 27 July 2012.
  19. "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema | 36. Dekalog". Empire.
  20. "The 1,000 Greatest Films (Full List)". They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?.

External links

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