Krzysztof Kieslowski waits until the final installment to really show us his sense of humor.
Sure, there has been a dry wit to much of The Decalogue, his series of short films based on the Ten Commandments. But Decalogue X is downright playful, as it follows two bumbling brothers who are conned out of their late father’s precious stamp collection. We first meet the pair at a comically anarchist rock concert, where the younger brother – the baby-faced Artur (Zbigniew Zamachowski) – is screaming from the stage “Kill! Kill! Kill!” while the older brother, Jerzy (Jerzy Stuhr), is trying to get his attention from the crowd below. They’re both out of place, and will only become more so.
After a perfunctory funeral for their father, the two discover the reason he kept multiple locks and an alarm system on his apartment: inside is a vast collection of stamps. They’re underwhelmed at first – Jerzy even gives a few stamps away to his son – but after they meet with a collector they learn of its vast worth. Soon they’re fielding offers from people in the espionage-like world of stamp collecting, which makes them protectively paranoid. Nothing prompts you to become possessive of a thing like the knowledge that someone else really wants it.
Stuhr is particularly funny, with a comically sad smile that painfully stretches as his paranoia multiplies. Zamachowski is more of the tagalong clown, coming up with ideas that mostly backfire. My favorite is the “guard dog” he brings into the apartment, which is more effective at terrifying the two of them than anything else.
It’s somewhat surprising that Kieslowski would conclude his weighty, philosophical project with something that amounts to a lark, yet it’s also a relief. The Decalogue is a tough road, dealing as it does in things such as infidelity, capital punishment, impotence and the death of a child. So it’s almost merciful that Kieslowski sends us out on this lighter note. Plus, as a consideration of the final Commandment not to covet – one Artur rails against at the start while singing “Everything belongs to you!” – Decalogue X is no less effective for its laughs.