Greenpoint, October, 2015

Friday, June 15, 2012

Taxi Movies (7)

Taksówka Polska (Photo Dominik Nawrocki)
The Polish director Krzysztof Kieślowski's masterwork, the Decalogue, made for Polish television and broadcast in 1989, is made up of 10 one-hour films. Each film reflects, often obscurely, one of the 10 Commandments. And each takes place, at least in part, in a large blok, or housing complex, in Warsaw. While each film focuses on its own set of characters and their relationships, characters from other films reappear (or pre-appear) in passing.

Two of the films concern taxis. The more famous is Decalogue V (Thou shalt not kill), the story of a boy who sets out to kill a cab driver. Kieslowski later expanded this film to become A Short Film About Killing for theatrical release. The film I have selected for you, though, is Decalogue III ("Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy"). In it, Ewa (Maria Pakulnis) convinces Janusz, her former lover (Daniel Olbrychski) to leave his family on Christmas Eve--yes, another Christmas taxi movie!--to help her look for her missing husband. As an excuse, Janusz tells his wife that his cab has been reported as stolen. She begs him to stay with them--it's Christmas Eve--but he insists: "We live off that car."

If you have the time, watch the opening sequence as Janusz, dressed as Święty Mikołaj (Father Christmas) enters the building. In one of the most exquisitely heartbreaking moments of the entire heartbreaking series, he passes a neighbor (played by Henryk Baranowski) who in the first film lost his son to drowning.

(I went to a party at a colleague's apartment in the complex about a year after the Decalogue aired. I remember it had a nice view from the balcony over the Jewish Cemetery. Can't remember how I got home--probably took a taxi.)

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