The Decalogue: IV and V


As I noted in the review of the first three films in this series, it is not always possible to sort out which parts of the decalogue are being dealt with in any given episode. This is particularly true of IV, but not at all true of V.

Film IV appears to encompass honoring your father and mother, not coveting your neighbors wife (husband), and not bearing false witness. In IV a Father leaves his daughter during a business trip. She discovers an envelop that has written on it "To be opened in the event of my death." And she considers opening it. Finally she does open it to find within another envelop, labeled in a different hand, "To my darling daughter." From this simple kernel, a plot of intrigue, deceit, false and real betrayal and reconciliation all spins out. By far and away one of the more complex of the series so far.

In V we get a simple admonition, "Thou shalt not kill." We see a young man who, apparently at random, decides to rob and murder someone. Everything possible is done to make the young man thoroughly unlikable. His counterpoint is the young attorney who is assigned to defend him and who does everything in his power to convince the court that capital punishment is not justice but institutionalized revenge. This is the summary speech that occurs at the beginning of the film and which only gradually begins to make sense.

I'm uncertain what feeling I was supposed to leave with. We have at the end the young attorney hammering on his car in a field and saying, "I abhor it. I abhor it." I don't know if he speaks for the director, for himself only, or for some other group. But I didn't find the appeal particular persuading in this instance. While I am sympathetic to the argument overall, this didn't strike me as a very strong entry in opposition to it.

Still, despite that failure on my part, it is enjoyable to watch. Most interesting are some of the cinematic techniques used to couch the whole story. And also interesting is the appearance of the young man, said by some to symbolize Christ or His Angels. He has appeared in every film to this point, always at key junctures. In IV he appears twice and seems to be the impetus toward reconciliation and redemption.

So far, the only thing close to a misstep in the series is # 3, and even that was supremely interesting. Highly recommended.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on August 28, 2006 9:19 AM.

Pyongyang was the previous entry in this blog.

Fiction v. Nonfiction is the next entry in this blog.

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