Decalogue (2011) – By Josh Samford

Within the independent film world, a quick indicator for the quality of a film can usually be determined within seconds. It really doesn’t take a whole lot to figure out whether you’re in for something that will be gripping, or something that will be grating. The first thing to look out for is the acting quality. If you’re dealing with a film that features above average performances from most of the main cast, and performers aren’t stepping on each other’s lines and showing off their amateur roots, then there’s a good chance that the film is going to be bearable. If the general picture quality doesn’t exude the creativity of a teenager shooting his buddies fooling around in the backyard, once again, you might be in for something decent. Within merely a few minutes of the independent feature film Decalogue, I knew that not only was I dealing with a film that was made by someone who genuinely loves the craft of making movies, but it was a film with a great deal of social commentary on the brain. Coming from the angle of someone heavily contemplating the moral implications of our society and the logistics of religious piety, director Walter Rodriguez proves to be a filmmaker with a lot of promise who knows exactly how to push the buttons of the audience.

Decalogue is a film of interchanging plot strands that tie together around the concept of the Ten Commandments, or Decalogue as it was referred to in Greek and which is still used in some areas of Jewish culture. The film puts forth instances where in every day situations we as a society abandon these laws and then shows the repercussions, or necessity, of breaking these laws. The film follows several characters, including: Nikola, who is a European immigrant that is out of work and finds it nearly impossible to find a job since he has no papers. His girlfriend is in the same position, but could find work as an erotic dancer, something she does not want to do. Charles is a young man with business on his mind, and his wife truly loves the man but is being ignored. She soon begins looking after Gary, their friend, who has recently tried to commit suicide. We also follow a young high school girl who discovers that she can get all of the material things she wants in this world, but to do so she’ll have to sell her body and ultimately sell her soul. Then there’s a young woman with severe daddy issues, as her father has repeatedly molested her from a young age and now she finds herself searching out an older man to look after her. An older man who just so happens to be her father’s best friend. Finally we have Jesus who is a down on his luck fellow who comes up with a brilliant idea to make money: he’ll open a church! However, not just any kind of church, a church without sin! One that creates a new god for all to worship! As things progress and the church’s popularity continues, the cult like following it has begins to develop into something dangerous.

Decalogue is about as ambitious a project as you are going to find on the independent film circuit these days. It looks to accomplish some hefty goals right up front. The amalgamation of theological question-marks that pop up throughout the picture make for enough "food for thought" to last you several days, but on top of this you have a broad spectrum of race-related issues that call up questions about the ever-changing face of American culture in the twenty first century. You have the Latino perspective represented clearly, but the character of Nikola, who is a European immigrant, shows the wide perspective of the "American" identity. Director Walter Rodriguez seem to have some lofty goals for this aspect of the project and although the film doesn’t provide a great deal of answers, it is a movie that will have you thinking.

The religious goals of the movie are thought provoking and it’s rather difficult to pinpoint who breaks which law throughout the entirety of the movie, because it seems that everyone is sinning in some regard. In regards to the characters, some might seem almost wholly pure in comparison to the others, so its fun to watch along and try to pinpoint precisely what the filmmaker is hoping to say with each parallel storyline. It’s a concept-piece, without a doubt and that’s the beauty of it. It looks to evaluate the Ten Commandments that were brought down from Moses and the way in which society has in many ways turned away from this simple moral compass. While the filmmakers claim that "this film shows how in today’s society many people have to turn away from the commandments in order to survive", ultimately when you really think about what goes on and the outcomes – the film ultimately proves a condemnation of society and our turning away from even the most basic tenants of moral principles. In the context of the film, the characters seem as if they believe themselves to be in an age that has reached some sort of intellectual apex, but ultimately they seem to be the same rebellious lot that followed Moses around in the desert for forty years.

The performances from the main cast are immediately noticeable as they are certainly a step above the majority of independent films. That doesn’t mean that everyone puts in an Oscar worthy performance, but the talent level is certainly geared towards the professional level. The general look and aesthetic choices throughout are also on that same level of playing field. There’s definitely a "cinema verite" feel to the picture as it is shot in a documentary style format for the most part. You can expect a lot of hand-held camera work as well as a camera-focus that seems to slide in and out. While it’s certainly far from perfect, it’s definitely one of the more interesting titles to cross my desk in quite a while. I would definitely recommend you give it a look if any of these concepts grab your attention. You can read more about the project via their official website at: http://www.decaloguethemovie.com