Reel Life #2: Dekalog and Shadow of a Doubt

As nothing released in theaters this past weekend really captured my interest (and the few that did failed to see a release where I live), I didn’t get to see many films the past week. Nonetheless, I can say what few I did see were interesting to say the least.

Dekalog by Krzysztof Kieślowski (1989)

Back in March, I watched the Three Colors trilogy for the first time. I was so impressed that I wanted to see more of what Krzysztof Kieślowski directed. This is how I found about Dekalog. Similar to how the plots of the Three Colors trilogy modeled themselves after the three ideals of the French Republic, the ten short films that comprise Dekalog are inspired by the Ten Commandments.

All of the characters in these films live in the same housing project in eighties Poland, and throughout the course of their arcs, they wind up facing moral or ethical dilemmas. A man’s faith |in science| is shaken after a tragedy befalls his family. A woman with whom a man had an affair three years prior shows up on Christmas Eve and makes several unusual requests. A brutal, motiveless murder sees an idealistic lawyer and a drifter cross paths. An ethics professor gives a lecture only for an important person from her past to reappear in her life.

I had been watching these films since the beginning of April, and I have to say I really enjoyed the journey these films took me on. These vignettes have few moving parts, yet they leave an impact on you most epic films couldn’t. As a testament to this masterpiece’s quality, Stanley Kubrick famously stated that Dekalog is the only work worth admiring in his lifetime.

Verdict: Highly recommended

Shadow of a Doubt by Alfred Hitchcock (1943)

Charlie Newton is a young teenage girl living in Santa Rosa, California. She receives excellent news that her uncle whom she was named after, Charles Oakley, is arriving for a visit.

Part of what I find interesting about how works are received is what the creator thinks of their own canon. While most critics would cite Vertigo as Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece (if its position on the critics’ 2012 Sight & Sound poll is any indication), the man himself believed the more obscure Shadow of a Doubt to be his best.

Last week, I checked out Vertigo and I wasn’t particularly impressed. As such, I went into this film with a slight feeling of dread – if Vertigo was the best Hitchcock had to offer, I was in trouble attempting to view any of his other films. Thankfully, it turns out Shadow of Doubt is indeed worthy of the praise dedicated cinephiles have given it over the years. I’m impressed how such an old film could be so suspenseful. |Uncle Charlie is an excellent villain, being one of the earliest depictions of a sociopath in film. Every moment he’s onscreen after his wrongdoings have been revealed are immensely uncomfortable (deliberately so). On that note, young Charlie is a good lead, notably being one of the few female characters of her era to overpower a male serial killer.| I won’t say much more outside of the preceding spoiler tag in case anyone is interested in seeing it, but I will say that it is a far better film than Vertigo.

Verdict: Highly recommended

3 thoughts on “Reel Life #2: Dekalog and Shadow of a Doubt

  1. It’s interesting, how the work creators often value most isn’t the one that’s received the most critical acclaim. Makes me wonder what they see in them that so many others don’t. I also enjoy the flip side of that, watching people find more in a work than the creators ever thought was there.

    Art is fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Indeed it is. This seems to be something of a reoccurring narrative with particularly prolific artists. Kurosawa’s favorite film of his wasn’t Seven Samurai or Rashomon, but Ran. Things get even stranger when you finally jump into an artist’s body of work only to realize there are some times in which you agree with the majority of film scholars and other times in which you side with the creator. I have to admit I haven’t seen much of Hitchcock’s filmography, but I will say that between Shadow of a Doubt and Vertigo, the former is by far the superior effort. Strangely, Shadow of a Doubt is admired by cinephiles, so this isn’t a case where the creator’s favorite is completely unknown. Meanwhile, when it comes to Orson Welles’s work, I wound up siding with the majority in that I preferred Citizen Kane over Chimes at Midnight (the latter of which was Welles’s favorite alongside The Trial).

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: May 2018 in Summary: Extra Life is Now Four Years Old! | Extra Life

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