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Uneven but a monumental achievement overall. Four episodes - 1, 5, 6, and 9 achieve perfect grades for me.
I'm a huge fan of Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski (The Double Life of Veronique, Three Colors trilogy) and the Decalogue is his reaction to someone saying there ought to be a film about the Ten Commandments to counterpoint the sex and violence in late 80s cinema. He made ten. These one-hour dramas aired on Polish television, and if you were to fit them into the color scheme of his later films (Veronique as gold/yellow, and the Three Colors' Blue, White and Red), it would be Gray. Though each film has its own characters, they are set in and around the same gray concrete apartment building in Warsaw. Only one film could actually be called "colorful". But it's the content that truly merits the "gray" label. The films' themes aren't really one-for-one with each of the Commandments, but rather explorations of how several of them could contradict one another. Morality isn't a black and white thing that can be codified the way religion sometimes tries to, and Kieslowski's characters are trapped in ethical puzzles that surprise and confound by their anti-formulaic presentation. The stories character-based, the endings poignant by their ambiguity. None of them left me cold, and I wish I'd watched them with other people, because each deserved a good discussion afterwards. A great achievement.
Truly an inspired work. A vast undertaking that manages to follow the Kieslowski model by stirring up those impossible to articulate feelings inside you whilst still maintaining an intelligent and thought-provoking dialectic.
Understandably not to everyone's tastes due to the bleak underscore of each episode but nevertheless an important piece of work that should be remembered for a long time to come.
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In 12 official lists
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This movie ranks #4 in Top 100 Spiritually Significant Films
This movie ranks #11 in TV Mini-series
This movie ranks #40 in The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema
This movie ranks #88 in Stanley Kubrick, Cinephile
This movie ranks #100 in Roger Ebert: the great movies
This movie ranks #169 in They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?
This movie ranks #217 in The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made
This movie ranks #280 in Harvard University's Suggested Film Viewing List: Narrative Films (2012)
This movie ranks #352 in Sight and Sound 2012 - Combined List
This movie ranks #796 in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
This movie ranks #824 in Jonathan Rosenbaum's Essential Films
This movie ranks #977 in The Criterion Collection