Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2011

Document Type


First Advisor



The topics of law and justice constantly manifest in Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski’s films. His 1988 television series, Dekalog, proves no exception. The ten-film series uses each segment to focus on one of the Ten Commandments, one of the most wellknown, early legal texts. While primarily dealing with the violations of these rules, the films also examine the consequences of such infringements and how wrongs may most effectively be amended. Through his portrayal of righting the violated commandment, Kieslowski reveals his interpretations of justice. Justice, however, never takes on an absolute definition in this series, as the director acknowledges the many different approaches to amending wrongs. Ultimately, Kieslowski depicts the concepts of restorative justice as being most effective in creating harmony after an offense. Restorative justice does not seek to punish the offender, but instead attempts to create a dialogue between the victim and the offender. In doing so, the offender can realize any wrongs and make amends, becoming a valuable member of society. Furthermore, the legal system is encouraged to understand the background of the offender so as to address the circumstances that could promote crime. Retributive justice provides the foil to this theory, with emphasis being placed on proportionate punishment, in the hopes of deterring future crime. For Kieslowski, understanding and emotional connections prove far more important that punishment. The more optimistic films in the series show the success of restorative justice, while the bleaker ones depict selfish quests for revenge. Analysis of Dekalog I, Dekalog V, Dekalog VII, Dekalog VIII, and Dekalog X reveals Kieslowski’s vision of the moral benefits of restorative justice in handling violations of law over the selfish, shortsighted motivations behind retributive justice.