Review by Rumsey Taylor
Posted on 14 March 2007
Source 35mm print
In the first of a series of scenarios based upon the Ten Commandments, a man jumps excitedly out of an airplane and thwumps cleanly into the soft ground, to be embedded there, alive, for the rest of his life. The experience inspires in him a demeanor of such concentrated indifference that he is idolized. T-shirts are made, then a sitcom, a cocaine addiction, and a divorce.
The Ten is cohesive in the irreverence of its scenarios (in my favorite, Jesus Christ — Justin Theroux as a disheveled, overly hirsute carpenter in a small Mexican village — arrives at a dance on a Segue, and then the device is never used again). In sum, they will involve sodomy, Roberta Fleck, as many CAT scan machines as can fit in a two-story home, and Winona Ryder in Thou Shalt Not Steal.
But despite this irreverence — which is certainly the strength of David Wain’s brand of sketch comedy (he and his colleagues are alumni of “The State”) — The Ten has a meticulous rhythm and consistency, with aspects of early commandments informing the latter. A T-shirt from the opening scenario will briefly appear again in a later one; less scrutinizing eyes will notice how forceful slapping becomes one of the film’s principle motifs.
This brings me to a ridiculous but warranted comparison to The Decalogue. Both The Ten and Kieslowski’s film series consider the iterative nature of the Ten Commandments; how its brief, epic tenets may be endowed with both pathos and humor, and how their central nature is maintained – that they must be considered as a whole, with their individual components clarifying each other.