Again dealing with adultery, Dekalog 9 is about the marriage of a man who has just been diagnosed with sexual impotence—his wife has an affair, he spies on her, she breaks off with the young lover only to discover that her husband is standing in the wardrobe watching. I thought, the wife was wrong to cheat on her husband, but it’s not right for him to follow her and listen to her phone calls either. Their trust is broken, they both lie to each other. Then I realised that I was the one that judged, I was the one that condemned. Kieslowski doesn’t.
In previous episodes, there’s a woman that loves 2 men at the same time, a young woman that has incestuous feelings for her father, a teenage girl that has a relationship with her teacher, a man that leaves his family at home on Christmas Eve to go with his former lover... Now in Dekalog 9, we see distrust and an intrusion on privacy, but also see pain, humiliation and feeling of inadequacy; we see a betrayal and moral lapse but also see love, repentance and wish for redemption. Kieslowski doesn’t condemn.
As a writer/ director, Kieslowski has the qualities that I admire in 19th century Russian writers: the subtlety and ambiguity; the moral seriousness; the exploration of people’s relationships, their inner lives, complexity and self-contradictions; the nonjudgmental attitude; the humanity, tenderness and understanding for human weaknesses; the celebration of life and its unknowability; the hopeful and uplifting note at the end, etc.
From Bilge Ebiri’s review:
“Kieslowski stood, at the end of the 1980s, in a decaying authoritarian state and presented to us a vision in which God, the law, and socialism all came up empty. And just think about it: He had the gall to make a film about the Ten Commandments that refused to judge anyone, even allowing the worst murderer moments of grace. In fact, maybe we’ve been thinking about it all wrong. Maybe Dekalog is not about the Ten Commandments, but a response to them — and to the very idea of law and judgment and top-down morality. To the ironclad dicta of absolutism in all its forms, the director responds with a love that passes understanding.”