Throughout most of the Decalogue One the man in these screenshots is filmed from below eye level, presumably at the level his son would see him. The angle accentuates his secure dominance and authority and autonomy, but never looming menace — the Good Father. But when the son is no longer there, or perhaps when the ghost of his son is watching him, then this angle exposes the Father as isolated and disconnected, too self-contained to engage in ordinary human affairs as an equal. By the end he is brought crashing down to earth, but the camera never looks down on him with pity or disdain. He has become human. And perhaps too the spectral gaze of the son, now beyond the fantasies of childhood, can see his father as an equal, as merely human after all, someone who shares the sorrow of having to live in a pointless world watched over by a god who is always ready but who never acts.
Discussions of The Color Purple turned toward — or rather against — Spielberg and his ability to manipulate the audience. Kieslowski too shapes the viewer’s response. Unlike Spielberg, Kieslowski doesn’t shy away from the darkness — he moves the viewer to sorrow and despair along with his protagonist. The camera sees things the father doesn’t — the imminent danger to which the hubristic father is oblivious, the the aftermath of a catastrophe that he cannot acknowledge to himself and so must ignore until at last it forces itself on him, the eery and lonely darkness that descends on his enlightened mind.
I said that I thought Spielberg was a humanist, but he’s more a populist. Kieslowski is a humanist in an existential sense. Spielberg gives us the showy spirituality of a gospel choir; Kieslowski, the deep mystery of a brooding presence beyond oneself. Spielberg might have mastery of manipulative technique, but his range of emotion is limited either by his own personality or his eagerness to take his audience where it wants to go. Kieslowski manipulates the viewer into entering a place he doesn’t want to go but makes it inescapable. It’s the ends rather than the means, where they take us not how they take us there, that separates Kieslowski from Spielberg.