In 1989 a Polish Drama series ran 10 one-hour programmes inspired by the 10 commandments. Each short story explores characters facing one or several moral ethical dilemmas as they live on a grimy and austere housing estate. The producer was inspired to make the films he said after looking at a 15th century artwork that had 10 different scenes of people challenged by the 10 different commandments. His intention, he said, was to give a modern equivalent, a modern context in which the Ten Commandments challenged people today.
The first programme looks at the commandment that forbids false idols and explores way we idolise science. The second programme explores the second commandment, which proposes not taking the Lord’s name in vain, and looks the way we use language, the way it builds up and destroys. The third, which bids us keep the Sabbath day holy, explores the way we use our time, specially our leisure time. The fourth commandment which is about respecting our father and mother explores what it means to be a family. The fifth, you shall not kill, looks at the sanctity of life and what happens when someone murders another and the punishments visited on them. The sixth – not committing adultery – looks at the nature of love and passion. The seventh, not stealing, looks at our desire for possessions and how we become possessed by them and their temptations, which overpower us. The eighth, not bearing false witness against your neighbour, looks at the difficult of telling the truth to others and ourselves and the power of deceit. The ninth, not coveting your neighbour’s wife explores contentment with what one has and the power of sex and jealousy in life. The final commandment, not coveting your neighbour’s goods explores greed, jealousy and how we interact with others.
The desire of the Polish director was to set these ancient 10 commandments down in a modern situation: a housing estate, flawed characters, moral dilemmas, temptations, seemingly easy solutions, and destructive behaviour. He wanted to set them down in what is the fast flowing river of modern life, in those cross currents in which we have to make moral decisions often in a moment and to decide between right and wrong in our life and the implications that follow from it. He wanted to explore how these 10 commandments invite us rise higher, make better decisions, not be dictated or consumed by our passions, how they teach us to live well and better godly and spiritual lives.
Through each of these episodes a polish actor appears in each of them and observes the main character at key moments in the story line, he watches, looks and does not intervene. It is intended that he represent God who sees all actions, knows all of the dilemmas we face, who watches and looks on.
The 10 commandments are given to us as a map to direct us through life. They tell us of important things: the sanctity of God and worship, the sanctity and importance of the way we speak. The importance of time and how we use our time. The sanctity of human relationships in the family, the sanctity of love and the preciousness of human life. The importance of telling the truth and the importance of contentment with what you have rather than the jealousy over what others have in their life.
The commandments are important, they are anchor points in life. You know if you have a tent and if you erect it without putting in the pegs, then as soon as a wind comes it will blow away. The commandments are the pegs that make life secure and right, without them as soon as a wind comes everything will be blown away. They are the strong guiding principles of life, they are the secure things that tie everything down.
People don’t like rules, don’t like to be told what to do. But life and society are built on rules and laws, without them there would be chaos. If you don’t like the word rules or commandment, then use 10 principles, ideals, and lights to lead your life by. The 10 commandments give us a tiller and sails to guide the boat of our life, without them we would be bereft and swept out to sea, tossed and turned by every wave or current. We would be left to guide the boat by our own wishes and desires with all the danger of running aground, or running the boat onto sharp rocks.
The 10 commandments are God’s step for a hint to lead a good life. His law is perfect, as the psalm says, it revives the soul. His decrees are trustworthy, they give wisdom to the simple. His precepts are right, they give joy to the heart. His commands are clear they give light to the eye.