Sunday, 28 September 2008

Sunday Night at the Movies - 28 September

Yes, Hello Brother Dallas...

Alas, I have gone yet another week without watching a current movie. I watched The Year of the Dragon starring Mickey Rourke from 1985 (lame!), The English Patient (gorgeous!), and James Bond in You Only Live Twice (deliciously corny). But the standout film experience of the week came via Home Teaching.+

One of the individuals that I Home Teach is a man from Poland named Les. He's a single gentleman who has been living in Sydney now for over twenty years. Since Home Teaching usually involves boring (yet satisfying) thirty minute sessions of friendly gospel "sharing", I decided to spice things up and invite Les to a Polish film night. It is not often that I get to watch a good Polish film, and I thought this might be the trick. So, last night I picked up Les at his home and was greeted by his perfunctory "Yes, Hello Brother Dallas" in an accent dangerously close to Borat Sagdiyev. Les and I then drove over to the home of my home teaching companion, Geoff, where we ate pizza and watched Krzysztof Kieslowski's A Short Film About Killing.

This film comprises one of Kieslowski's Dekalog series of films which were ten films, each about one of the Ten Commandments, originally broadcast on Polish television in 1990. This film dealt with the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" and details the actions of Lazar Jacek as he prepares to, and then murders a cab driver. This murder comprises the first half of this eighty minute film. The last half details the subsequent trial, incarceration, and hanging of Jacek for his crimes.

This film is one of the most visually stimulating, intense, and excruciating films I've ever seen. The murder of the cab driver is altogether horrifying. Rarely, if ever, has violence been so terrifying. This murder is deftly juxtaposed with the gut-wrenching hanging of Jacek at the conclusion of the film. At first glance, it would be easy to shrug this film off as a "message" film designed as an indictment of capital punishment. But, a closer reading reveals a certain purity that emanates from this film. As Jacek goes from brutal murderer to being forced before the gallows it is clear that he has come to appreciate the sanctity of life, if only the sanctity of his own life. This transformation is rather startling, and as the film closes with Jacek's death there is this palpable feeling that life truly is something sacred. And although an ancient "commandment" instructing human beings not to kill each other may seem rather simplistic and obvious, it is, in fact, quite inspired.
**** Stars

+For those of you who read this that are not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Home Teaching is a program in which members of the congregation are paired up and assigned to visit the other families in the congregation. This visiting usually takes place once a month and inspires greater unity amongst the congregation.


Melanie said...

I'm sure I'm not the only one that wishes home teaching was always that entertaining. . . Maybe I'll have to take a movie along the next time I visit teach.

Sounds like an intense film, though. . . Maybe I'll take Penelope. :)

booktapes said...

So I think your post has inspired me to finally netflix the Decalogue. Like, today. Also, I was at your house once a LONG time ago, and you were watching some foriegn film... I can't remember what it was a bout. I think a kid got killed or died or something. Anyway, do you remember what film that was? Was that actually part of the Decalogue? I think I remember it being Polish, but I can't be sure. Anyway, good post.

Dallas said...

yeah, it's nice to mix things up with the home teaching. and the movie was a bit more intense than i remembered it when i watched it years ago. in fact, probably a bit too intense to be watching with two "brethren" under the guise of a church function... ah well.

is penelope good? you know i love christina ricci.

Dallas said...

hmmm... a foreign movie where a kid gets killed. isn't that EVERY foreign movie? possibly the "decalogue", but there are ten episodes, and it's hard to keep them all straight. it could have also been the italian film "the tree of wooden clogs", also extraordinary.

if it's available, try to watch "a short film about killing". the 'thou shalt not kill' episode from the "decalogue" is a shorter version of the one that i watched and not as good. but the "decalogue" is certainly worth watching as it's extraordinary filmmaking. according to, kubrick said that the "decalogue" was the only masterpiece that he could name in his lifetime.