I’m been a great fan of Krzysztof Kieslowski, ever since his ‘Decalogue’. He is a filmmaker of unparalleled distinction whose simple stories deal with difficult, fundamental and universal questions about complex human feelings. Present throughout his oeuvre, he asks and attempts to answer “How should one live?” In an interview Kieslowski said, “Everyone wants to change the world whenever they make the effort to do something. I don’t think I ever believed the world could be changed in the literal sense of the phrase. I thought the world could be described”….. Seldom the sort of impression few movie maker who would have ever made!!
Kieslowski directed the Three Colors trilogy (Polish: Trzy kolory) -Two made in French and one primarily in Polish: Blue was the first of the series (in French), followed by White (mostly in Polish) and Red (again in French).
Giving you the background- Blue, white, and red are the colors of the French flag in left-to-right order, and the story of each film is loosely based on one of the three political ideals in the motto of the French Republic- liberty, equality, fraternity.
With his earlier film “The Decalogue’ had the treatment of the Ten Commandments; the illustration of these principles is often ambiguous and ironic. As Kieslowski noted in an interview with an Oxford University student newspaper, “The words [liberté, egalité, fraternité] are French because the money [to fund the films] is French. If the money had been of a different nationality we would have titled the films differently, or they might have had a different cultural connotation. But the films would probably have been the same.”
The best-known performers in the trilogy are French actors Juliette Binoche, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Julie Delpy, and Irène Jacob. In “White” stars Polish actor Zbigniew Zamachowski. The uniqness is these three colors are set in three different cities of Europe. “Blue” is set in Paris, “White” in Warsaw, and “Red” in Geneva. Kieslowski’s style of filmmaking is subtle and intellectual, and the story of the three colors deal with individuals rather than the groups, and the films comprising the trilogy aren’t particularly political. Instead, they are deeply personal and fable-like, and for me they represent humanistic filmmaking at its very best. The color trilogy also interpreted as an anti-tragedy, an anti-comedy, and an anti-romance respectively.
Blue: The movie ‘Blue’ is quintessential Kieslowski. This is the design and an abstract of a political perception, the very idea of freedom from the personal and psychological level- A view from the inner mindscape of a woman about the idea of liberty. Juliette Binoche portrays Julie, who, at the beginning of the film is cruelly liberated by the tragic death of her world-renowned composer husband and child in a car accident of which she is the sole survivor. At first, Julie cope with the deaths by attempting a hasty aborted suicide but once she gets out of the hospital, she closes up their large home and moves into a shoddy apartment complex, callous herself off downright from her work, friends and any connection to the outside world. Since as Binoche notes, life has been hard on Julie, Julie decides to be equally hard on life, acting out in self-destructive ways that range from crunching down on a sucker so stern, and an attempt to sleep with her husband’s colleague in order to demystify herself since he’d always placed her on a romantic pedestal, and running her knuckles harshly along a jagged wall. She imprisons herself with this new freedom, occasionally leaving her apartment and visits her mother who watches television as a way to witness the outside world. They watch a man bungee jump onscreen together. The act seem to be a symbolic augur that Julie takes a risk, make a jump and give up this imposed freedom. She does so when the outside world interferes with her melancholic solitude—discovering her husband had a pregnant mistress and being forced to complete a symphony with her husband’s colleague, revealing viewers that Julie may have in fact been the instigator all along under her husband’s name.
Blue has a contemplative and pensive visual the cinematographer amplifies blues invading each frame and some wonderful allegory and representation during her regular swim laps in her apartment pool. Juliette Binoche explains on the DVD that the pool itself (a device suggested by the cinematographer) represents life and death and Julie is swimming between the two. There’s a beautiful, brief image of rebirth that Binoche carries out when Julie begins to emerge from the pool and the symphony fills the soundtrack. The music reveals her state of mind, and when she sink back into the pool, gets into the fetal position and then exits the pool like a fetus being reborn, the water serving as a sacramental life force. Binoche’s magnificent performance is the strongest of the three films and indorses the “anti-tragedy”. Quite a hard Kieslowski in his “post-feminist” phase that sanities of cinema mark a women centric works and it’s so captivating that this usage of liberty is to show its limits and not offer the clichéd decree of independence. Kieslowski seems to reason that true liberty isn’t possible after all, and in her best, Julie must expose herself up to her immediate situation and settling under those environment of uncertainty as the transition of life continue against the idea of real liberty, which Kieslowski embraces improbability………….
White: The second of the series ‘White’is a contemplative image and depicts the theme ‘equality’- This film takes you to Warsaw and the opening shot of White, shows a suitcase traveling on an airport conveyor belt remains the most memorable sequences and only after the final credits begin, do we realize that contained in that suitcase, is our fateful hero, Karol, a sad Polish citizen who sneaks back into the country of his birth after his icy French wife divorces him for being unable to consummate the marriage. White stands for equality and its apparent early on in the film that in France, Karol is imbalanced & irrational to his beautiful young wife mostly because he is unable to speak the language. Seen today in a state hold the elections to decide whether or not to exclude illegal immigrants and non-English speakers from rights guaranteed to English speaking Americans or may be in the country where Spanish, Germany or French dominate and rest hold no significance. This gets us even more involved in the plight of our sad sack hero. Couple of critic indicates that this movie relies heavily on voyeurism- in the way Hitchcock’s intriguing elements of bringing the male character as impotent, viz. James Stewart’s role in Rear Window or Vertigo. Director describes that Karol spy on the woman he still loves and fetishizes a gentle voyeurism reveal to conjure sympathy. Further influence of Hitchcock can be identified in the casting of Julie Delpy as Karol’s wife—like Hitch’s frequent fascination with cool blondes, she is perfectly cast as we quickly learn that she’s quite cold and calculating with much more going on under the surface than her angelic looks imply. Her cunning and evil revenge for his impotence causes her to freeze his accounts, burn down her own hair salon (framing him) and letting him hear her making love to another man over the phone. The luminous Julie Delpy was exploited in the advertising for the film with a box illustrating White as an erotic delight although there is very little sex in the film itself.
Critics agree with some referring to it as an “anti-comedy”, ironic to the tone more in a way that Kieślowski once said that “believing too much in rationality, our contemporaries have lost something”.
For all the film enthusiasts, this movie ‘White’ is the greatest inspiration in works with many twists and turns and especially film students can find their study of Kieslowski’s precious sarcasms and dark humor—this pessimistic tale seems to provide the perfect set-up for the moral uplift of the next and final trilogy ‘Red’.
Red: This film travels you to Geneva and the theme of fraternity is depicted in Valentine’s (Irene Jacob) relationship with a retired judge (Jean-Louis Trintignant). The story begins with Irene Jacob as Valentine, a woman in Geneva whose car strikes a beautiful golden retriever. She nurses the dog back to health and returns it to its owner, a retired judge (Jean-Louis Trintignant), who tells her she can keep it. He is beyond worrying about dogs. He occupies his days intercepting the telephone calls of his neighbors, and he watches them through his windows almost like God–actually, just like God–curious, since they have free will, what they will do next. After a lifetime of passing verdicts, he wants to be a detached observer.
The film reveals as the young man this judge was once in love, lost that love, and has lived on hold ever since. He all but caresses his emotional wounds. Although at first he rudely turns Valentine away, slowly he begins to tell her his story. There is a moment in “Red” where Valentine leans forward to listen with such attention and sympathy that she seems at prayer. Only gradually do we learn that the story of the judge and his lost love reveals parallels with the story of Valentine and her lover who is always absent, and with the life of a young law student who lives across from her apartment in the city–a student she has never met. On another timeline, in a parallel universe, the judge and Valentine might have themselves fallen in love. They missed being the same age by only 40 years or so.
The three films are also linked in various ways. All three films involve an unfaithful lover who dies, in one way or another. All three films involve a chance encounter between the distressed protagonist and a sympathetic observer – the widow and the mistress in ‘Blue’, Karol and Mikolaj in ‘White’, the retired judge and the model in ‘Red’. Both ‘Blue’ and ‘White’ are about people who move to new surroundings to escape from his or her troubled pasts. And ‘Red’, ironically, is about someone who never leaves his home in order to wallow in his self-pity.
This movie ‘Red’ is compared to some of history’s biggest literature greats. Just as Shakespeare’s play-Red “is Kieslowski’s ‘Tempest’. A man of formidable strength and his craft is sorcerer’s touch, authorial stand-in the place, under the sun as the summation of an oeuvre”. A last of the legend, in his farewell made with a public announcement following the film’s premiere at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival. He died at the age of 54 on the 13th of March 1996 – just under two years after announcing his retirement.
During the production of Red he himself said that it was one of the toughest films of his career and very complex in its construction. A complicated overtures of experience and therefore, if the idea I’ve got in mind doesn’t come across, it meant that either film is too primitive a medium to support such a construction or that all of us put together haven’t got enough talent for it. But despite the fact that many critics and audiences applaud the artistic qualities of the trilogy, especially the last film; the director treated this praise lightly. “Film is often just business”, “I understand that and it’s not something I concern myself with. But if film aspires to be part of culture, it should do the things great literature, music and art do: elevate the spirit, help us understand ourselves and the world around us and give people the feeling they are not alone”.
A timely philosophical journey and each moment of our life is full of infinite possibility, that our lives are connected and interconnected in ways that we can never fully grasp. The conclusion of the trilogy, when our major characters emerge from a tragic accident, both delivers the pleasure of a happy ending and leaves us all too aware of the five hundred deaths that the narrative has not had time for – an open ending without equal………………………….. And just as Kieslowski’s words ‘For me optimism is two lovers walking in the sunset arm in arm, or may be into the sunrise and life is best as it is”.
Three cheers to the maestro
- Directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski
- Produced by Marin Karmitz & Yvonne Crenn
- Written by Krzysztof Kieslowski & Krzysztof Piesiewicz
- Starring: Juliette Binoche; Zbugniew Zamachowski& Irene Jacob
- Music by Zbugniew Preisner
- Cinematography by Edward Kłosiński; Piotr Sobociński & Slawomir Idziak
- Editing by Ursula Lesiak
- Distributed by MK2 Distribution
- Release dates:8th September1993(Blue);26th January 1994 (White) and 8th September 1994 (Red)
- Run time of 288 minutes
- Country: France; Poland & Switzerland
- Language: French, Polish & Swiss