The challenge of the Fourth Commandment, "Honor thy father and thy mother," is very difficult given the highly charged emotions underlying this primal relationship. Anka (Adrianna Biedrynska) is a 20-year-old acting student who has been raised by her widowed father, Michal (Janusz Gajos). Her mother died shortly after giving birth to her. They live in a small apartment and are very close. On Easter Monday, a time for practical jokes, they douse each other with water. When he leaves for a business trip, she dips into a depression. Her boyfriend, Jarek (Tomasz Kozlowicz), noticing her mood asks: "What have I done wrong?" She responds: "Not everything revolves around you."
For years, Anka has been fascinated by a sealed envelope with writing on it in her father's hand: "Not to be opened before my death." While he's away, she opens it, finding another letter inside from her mother. Anka suspects that this letter contains a family secret and she hopes desperately that it reveals Michal is not her biological father. This would give her permission to act upon her sexual feelings for him. When he returns, she confronts him about whether he feels the same way about her.
Director Kieslowski's improvisations around the Fourth Commandment slip into the controversial and troubling area of sexual fantasy. But the real power of the drama revolves around its treatment of the boundaries that must be respected in the family circle. The intimacy between Anka and Michal illuminates the different shades of love between a daughter and a father. Her decision about what to do with her mother's letter forces them to take a hard look at the repressed feelings they have harbored for each other for years. And, in the end, Anka's surprising revelation gives them a chance to renegotiate their relationship in a much more honest and open way than in the past. We can all find unique ways to honor our parents at any point in our journey together.
Note: The Decalogue IV appears with The Decalogue III (see separate review) on Volume 2 of a 5-volume slip-cased set. You can also purchase the individual volume of the two films.