Friday, January 4, 2013

Dekalog 9: when trust is broken


With Dekalog 9, at last a drama about a marriage, a husband and wife relationship, complicated by his impotence and her searching- “thou shalt no covet thy neighbour’s wife.”

Roman receives the bad news at the start of the film- “Classic results and symptoms”. He will no longer be able to have sex. In the foreground in the next shot, with his wife Hanka behind, is a black telephone. Just like the $40,000 cash is in the foreground in ‘Psycho’, with Marion in the background. The telephone is the chief way Hanka communicates with her lover. The news devastates Roman. He stands outside his home in the cold, pouring rain for punishment. Afterwards, inside, shots show Roman to be strong looking and virile. Hanka suspects, and is not in a hurry to hear the news. Once he tells her, she says, pragmatically, “love is in one’s heart, not between one’s legs.” However he knows she is young, and in a sort of Lady Chatterley-like situation.

Like Hanka, Roman’s mind now begins to wander. There is a pretty medical student waiting for an operation where Roman works as a surgeon. It is not a relationship he pursues, but there appears to be a spark there. Meanwhile Hanka is acting on her desires, in the form of a fit young man who always wears a ski jacket. When she gets Roman to try on a conservative suit jacket that is ill fitting, the difference with her man in the ski jacket is obvious.

This man, Mariusz, isn’t very discreet, phoning their home when Roman is present, leaving a little booklet of his in the glovebox of the family car. Perhaps he is keen for the relationship to be exposed. Roman earlier encourages Hanka to have a lover. However this is not how he really feels about the situation. He is upset and anxious about it. He even takes to secretly listening in on calls from another room on a device he rigs up. Later he will hide in the house they secretly meet at, and watch in the dark shadows.

Roman works out that it is Hanka’s mother’s house that is the rendezvous point. He gets keys cut for the place and gives it a good search, finding a postcard from Mariusz to Hanka. Roman holds it up to the camera to see, as if it is piece of evidence to be used in a court of law.

The only time we see Hanka and her young lover make love, she is wearing her wedding ring, and looks as though she is in pain. It’s a shot of a woman who feels horribly guilty. Shortly she will get rid of him, her love for Roman still strong. The young lover emerges, whistling in his blue ski jacket, oblivious it seems to her dark feelings. Roman is voyeur, but a different kind of voyeur to the young man in an earlier Dekalog. We can’t help excuse him.  With all this subterfuge going on, both Hanka and Roman carry their bodies heavily when they walk. They seem like broken people.

At Hanka’s mother’s apartment, the view through the gap in the curtains is simultaneously Roman’s view and ours as well. Through his eyes we see her deal firmly in expelling her lover, in order to alleviate their shared pain.

Hanka and Roman forge a new bond of trust when everything is exposed. In a melodramatic sequence near the end, changing the rhythm of the film entirely, Hanka goes on a skiing holiday and is followed by her ex-beau. Again she rejects him, but is terrified Roman may discover (which he has) that they are in the same skiing village. Desperately ringing home, Roman has already left what is probably a suicide note by the phone.

There is further communication between husband and wife, but in some ways it is now too late. Dekalog 9 is beautifully shot. The scenes in various locations, including the snow fields, take the viewer away from the claustrophobia of the crowded Warsaw tenement blocks. It is a strong story of love and tragedy, and regret, and is very real. Hanka’s final, touching ambiguous words to Roman are “God, you’re there.”

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