This is the second film in Polish film director Krzysztof Kieslowski's exploration of the Ten Commandments. In this one, he considers "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain."
An elderly hospital consultant (Aleksander Bardini) lives alone in an apartment with his canary and cacti. Through his dinner conversations with his housekeeper, we learn that he carries the immense grief of having lost his entire family years ago in the war. At the hospital, this consultant is further burdened with the difficult decisions he must make working with terminally ill patients.
Dorota (Krystyna Janda), a violinist in an orchestra, lives in the same building as the consultant. She is very anxious about her critically ill husband, Andrzej (Olgierd Lukaszewicz). She goes to see the consultant to ask him whether her husband is going to live or to die. He refuses to give a definitive answer saying that it is impossible to know; all one can do is wait and see.
Dorota's efforts to push the consultant into the role of God are grounded in the fact that she is pregnant. However, the baby she desperately wants is not her husband's. If Andrzej lives, she will have an abortion; if he dies, she will have the child. After sharing this dilemma with the consultant, he does further tests on her husband. He then tells Dorota that Andrzej will die soon.
In this ethically charged drama, writer/director Krzysztof Kieslowski shows the danger of taking the Lord's name in vain, either by playing God ourselves or by handing over our God-given powers to others, whether a health professional, a teacher, a job, a cause, or an addiction. The drama particularly addresses the tendency of patients and their families to rely heavily upon doctors to make major health care decisions for them.
Instead of looking to her own conscience and trying to discern the voice of God within, Dorota puts her destiny in the hands of another who turns out to be just as fallible and vulnerable as she is. In matters of life and death, no one has access to the way things will turn out except God. It is best to let God be God.