I’m taking a brief break from Noirvember to talk a bit about which version of Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Dekalog to buy. I saw two of the ten episodes years ago and have wanted to watch the entire set ever since. We have two choices (actually there are more than two, but these are no doubt the two best choices): The Criterion Collection release and the Arrow release.
DVD Beaver has a comparison of all the available editions, but again, the Criterion and Arrow Blu-ray releases are the main ones I’m interested in. I’ll get into some of the more obvious differences, but the primary question for most viewers will no doubt be which version is the most true to the original films as they were originally broadcast on Polish television?
The problem is in the presentation of 1080p (Criterion release) and 1080i (Arrow release, as it was originally broadcast). I didn’t understand the differences between the two, so I read up on it here. I’m still not sure I completely understand the differences, but – if I’m reading this correctly – it has to do with each presentation’s differences in frames per second, the original version being shot at 25 frames per second. According to the DVD Beaver analysis, this means that the films in the Criterion release are about 4% slower than those on the Arrow release. Could you or I tell the difference? Visually? Aurally? Maybe. Would it matter? Maybe.
I am assuming that the Arrow release will play on my region-free Blu-ray player. Not only DVD Beaver, but other reviewers seem to be giving the nod to the Arrow release over the Criterion one and not only for the truer presentation. The supplements seem a little more extensive on the Arrow (except they omit the full versions of A Short Film about Love and A Short Film about Killing), plus Arrow includes five other works for television that are absent from the Criterion release. (Again, check the DVD Beaver review for a full rundown on supplements.)
Another big consideration for me is economy of space. The Criterion release squeezes all 10 episodes of Dekalog onto two Blu-ray discs (with two more for supplements). The Arrow release has more breathing room with all 10 episodes spread out over five Blu-ray discs, but the set also includes the same material on five DVDs. Those DVDs really don’t do me any good since no one I know in my immediate area owns a region-free player, so I can’t loan them to anyone. Those DVDs make the Arrow release a huge shelf hog and I don’t know if I want that.
If anyone else is having a Dekalog dilemma, please let me know your thoughts!