The Decalogue (1989) Episode 7
The Decalogue 7
Spoilers occur about the ending, this review is intended for those who have already watched the film.
Majka is 22-years-old, and a student. All her life she has had to deal with Ewa, her dominant mother. Her father Stefan is good-natured, but weak. 6-year-old Ania is having nightmares and she screams at night. Majka, Ania's so-called big sister, attempts in vain to comfort her. Ania only lets her mother, Ewa, soothe her, which frustrates Majka. Why? The explanation is revealed, when Majka kidnaps Ania. Ewa doesn't have two daughters, Majka is Ania's mother.
One of the teachers named Wojtek at the school Majka attended, where Ewa was the headmistress, made Majka pregnant. Wojtek and Majka's child is Ania. Wojtek has been let go due to his forbidden affair with Majka, and now lives as a recluse in the woods, and makes a living making teddy bears. Majka was only 16, and to avoid a scandal, the family allowed the newborn baby to be registered as Ewa's daughter. Majka feels that her mother stole her baby, and now she wants a change. Majka plans to travel to Canada together with Ania. In the meantime, Majka seeks refuge with Wojtek in the woods. He is skeptical, not least when he notices how desperate and scatterbrained Majka is in the role of a mother, and how difficult it is for Ania to accept that her elder sister all of a sudden is her mother. Ewa who adores the little girl, finds it impossible to let go of Ania. Majka tries to escape together with Ania. Both Majka's parents and Wojtek chase them.
Analysis and interpretation:
Kieslowski has said you can steal a wallet, a car or a painting, but the worst theft is that of emotions. All the characters have in some way stolen from each other, and again this could be true for the audience watching. What have we neglected or refrained from speaking out loud, which could have changed the lives of others? Why have we hidden the most important details? Why didn't we listen? The only innocent character in the story is the 6-year-old girl Ania, and she is the unhappiest person in the story. She is powerless. What will happen to her when she grows up? These events will decide her future.
Both the mother and daughter believe they are doing what's best for the child, and even so, they argue, and may harm the girl's feelings beyond repair.
Ania experiences nightmares and cries a lot. Perhaps due to a problematic relationship with her mother. In spite of the attention, Ania seems insecure, having two mothers is not something that is easy to figure out at such a young age.
It is wrong of Majka to kidnap her own child and not tell her grandmother, but it is also wrong of the grandmother, even if she did so lovingly, to act like the child’s real mother.
Ewa has robbed Majka of the love of a mother, respect, acceptance, and support, which Majka needed during her adolescence, so Majka could have confidence in her own worth. As a result Majka is alienated from herself, what she thinks, and feels. Majka expresses in a piece of dialogue "You have stolen my child, my happiness as a mother, my love. You stole me, everything"
Majka experiences that Ewa gives Ania the love that Ewa never gave Majka. A quote from the film: “I didn't know Ewa could show affection, I had never noticed it before"
The only acceptance Majka has experienced is when she followed Ewa's demands. Ewa's husband admits to his wife: "You demanded too much from her". Ewa's love towards Majka was "quid pro quo", this for that.
By seeing Ewa's devotion towards Ania, Majka realizes what has been missing in her own childhood. Ewa perceives herself as a savior, who has helped her daughter Majka out of a tricky situation by taking over the role of motherhood of Ania.
Initially, Majka believes revenge towards her mother will work. To Wojtek she exclaims: "Today I have taken my first adult decision. I have stood up to her. Now I know I can do it". However her rebellion comes across as quite childish, she appeals to her dad as if she was a little girl, and she doesn't try and make the relationship with Wojtek work for the sake of the child. Wojtek is not the ideal father either, saying he will give her the house, but not offering to stay. He has not changed his approach since she was sixteen, he cannot support Majka emotionally.
Majka displays her immaturity as a mother by asking Ania to prove her love for her in the middle of the chaotic situation, Ania is obviously very confused. For example, by shaking her daughter and forcing her to say mummy. Majka feels worthless without the acceptance of her daughter telling her she's good enough.
It is characteristic of Majka's narcissism that she only thinks about herself, she doesn't try to put herself in the child's position for one second, and doesn't know how to please her daughter's needs.
“You shall not steal” refers to Majka stealing what is already hers. However the real theft happened much earlier when Ewa stole Ania from Majka. As Deciphering the Decalogue writes, this makes the kidnapping seem justified.
It is tragic that Majka has confidence issues, and doesn’t have the tools to deal with Ania. Majka feels her childhood was somewhat stolen from her by Ewa’s lack of maternal affections, and there is an underlying sense that Majka has been scarred for life by how her mother treated her as a kid.
For the viewer, it is very difficult to decide who should look after Ania, because Majka doesn’t know how, and Ewa is not Ania’s rightful mother. Ewa truly loves Ania and wants the best for her, so we are torn between who deserves her. In the end, Majka commits the greatest theft of all, robbing her daughter of her true mother.
Favorite quote: “can you steal something that’s yours?”
Connected to the seventh imperative of the Ten Commandments: "You shall not steal", Dekalog 7 may be about the lack of love towards children, which continues from one generation to the next. Ewa to Majka, Majka to Ania.
Watching this for the second time, there are minor inconsistencies. For example that Ewa couldn’t guess and didn’t ask Majka if she had Ania, before Ewa rang the police. Plus it was a bit of a long shot that Wojtek would notice the teddy bear by the river when he drove over the bridge (unless of course it was a secret spot he and Majka frequented.)
Although episode 7 lacks the cinematic atmosphere of parts 5 and 6, you could argue those were a tough act to follow. Technically not so original, but I actually think from a storytelling aspect episode 7 is a decent and well-thought-out installment, even though it is not as rewatchable as 5 and 6.
Where parts 5 and 6 often let the images tell us how the characters were feeling inside, episode 7 relies more on dialogue to tell us how each are dealing with the situation. To me, episode 7 feels a little more like a theatre play for this reason.
Many of the characters have selfish motivations and don't spread their love: Majka needs her daughter more than her mother; Ewa needs Ania more than Majka; Wojtek needs his independence more than taking responsibility for Majka or Ania.
If you don’t give a family member love, Kieslowski appears to be saying that you are stealing love from that relationship. Kieslowski also forces us to recall our own relationships with our parents, or how you act as a parent yourself.
Next time, I'll look at Episode 8. Readers of this review, any thoughts on Episode 7?
Kieslowski on Kieslowski / Danusia Stok
Deciphering The Decalog