Movie Reviews, Commentary & More

Colours Trilogy - Movie Reviews

Kryzysztof Kieslowski is a director from Poland who died when he was 55. Just before he died, he completed three movies - 'Blue', 'White' & 'Red' and announced his retirement. He was already a popular figure (popular sounds like a dirty word; almost demeaning to call such a critically acclaimed director as popular) because of his collection of ten short films: 'Decalogue' and many other fine films. His untimely demise after the completion of this trilogy has invited film lovers all over the world to give special attention to them; just like how people thronged to see 'Eyes Wide Shut' after Stanley Kubrick's death. For the lack of better words, I'd like to call Kieslowski a typical European film intellectual - who enjoyed making films that had trademark simplicity in the way the characters conducted their life, viewed through simple and powerful shots, pregnant with realistic dialogues and good performances. Though I've seen these movies before six years at irregular intervals, when I saw them all this weekend back to back, I was able to immensely appreciate the depth of the themes discussed.

'Blue' is about Julie, a beautiful woman in her thirties who has recently lost her husband and child in a car crash. She too was in the car when it crashes and it all the more adds to her depression and a lack of will to continue living until she gets to know of her dead husband's secret mistress. 'White' delves deep into Karol's soul, a poor soft-natured Polish immigrant in Paris who is driven away from her wife because he can't feed her sexual hunger. Even after amassing great material wealth, all he longs for is her wife's lap - to rest his head and cry. 'Red' revolves around the friendship between Valentine, a young model and a retired judge. In a parallel universe, they might have been a good couple; here, because of their age difference, they strike a good & unnatural friendship. There are interesting sub-plots and all the stories take place in the same timeline (1993-94) - there is even a scene where the characters from all the three movies criss-cross. But that is also the director's point - chance meetings? coincidences? fate?

'I used to give her pleasure' - says Karol, the lead man in 'White' in the court before the judge, a dialogue which he genuinely utters that I didn't know if I should feel sorry for that guy or laugh at him. But he is the kind of guy who knows his weaknesses and wouldn't take it wrong even if you laughed at him. While he plays a Polish tune in a subway after being pushed out of home, Mikolaj, another Polish in Paris identifies the tune and offers to help him back to his hometown, Warsaw. The friendship bond between Karol & Mikolaj strengthens, not with time, but because of events: the latter's offer to help him get home leaves an indelible sense of gratitude in the former. Mikolaj, a good man with a sad face wants to die, but can't bring to kill himself. In a brilliantly directed scene (which I won't reveal), Mikolaj goes from the brink of depression to a man who dearly holds on to his life. All along, Karol yearns to hear his wife's voice and longs for her physical touch.

'There is only one thing I need to do: nothing' says Julie, a widow in 'Blue' who has survived a car accident. In the hospital, as soon as she regains consciousness, a doctor informs her of the death of her husband and daughter and she is too feeble even to react to the news. She tries suicide by swallowing a bunch of sleeping pills; as if her body is against it, she finds all the pills caught in her throat and she spits them out. Devastated and emotionally drained, nobody to care for and nobody to be taken care of, she moves a suburb where she hides her identity and continues to live until death would knock her door. As fate would have it, she discovers about her husband's secret mistress and learns that she's carrying her husband's child. Though she finds it's tough to grasp the idea that it was possible for her husband to share a certain kind of intimacy with another woman, it is that thought, which strengthens with time, makes her accept the proposal of somebody who loves her. It's not a kind of revenge when she decides to get a grip on her life after coming to know about her husband's affair, but sort of coming to terms with herself.

'Breath of Life' is the caption for an ad Valentine, the protagonist of 'Red', does for a gum company. And to understand what that means in the context of the movie, one has to wait until the final scene which really breathes a new life, not only to this movie, but to this trilogy. In a model of narrative economy, Kieslowski portrays the breakdown of a relationship over a few scenes, which doesn't even involve the couple on the screen. Valentine's boy friend is a typical mediocrity mind set man who always questions her fidelity. We don't see him and we only hear his voice during Valentine's telephone conversations with him. When she says she's about to take bath, he asks is anybody is helping her. While her lovelessness is making her monumentally lonely, she gets acquainted with a retired judge who spies on his neighbours phone calls. Though she initially disapproves of his covert actions, she later realizes that there's more to him. In an interesting sub-plot that very much shadows the judge's life, the director purposefully dusts off the demarcation between reality & virtuality and makes a point that the judge and young lady are more than mere friends.

'Red' & 'Blue' features strong women who seem very normal on the outside but are tormented souls on the inside. In spite of their pain, they don't break down or hate the world. They can appreciate humaneness, but are also tough. Julie swims every night so that nobody would catch those tears streaming down her cheek, but when she finds a rat which has very recently delivered, she decides to get a cat. In an intelligently written part, Julie call on her husband's assistant who has all along had a silent eye on her. She asks if he loved her and he accords. They share the bed that night and in the morning she says "I'm like any other woman. I sweat, I cough" and then she leaves him. She had assumed that he only wanted her body and now that he's had her, his hunger would be quenched. Not until the final scenes does she appreciate his love for her. In 'Red', Kieslowski alludes to the similarity between the characteristics through bizarrely coincidental occurrences in the lives of the retired judge and a neighbour of Valentine. I'm not sure if they're really two different people and if the writers meant the audience to find an emotionally compatible man for Valentine in a young body.

The music never masks the scene - just guiding the feelings smoothly to where they need to be. The editors have done a masterly job of allowing one scene to flow into another. Though a lot has happened at the end of the movie, there seems to be no rush in the narration. Cameras, typically European, move only when they need to move. In all these three movies, there is no tension or thrill to speed up the story-telling. There is no manipulation of feelings to make you cry, though such situations are plentiful. Dialogues aren't spiced up to create a punch effect. Piesiewicz, who wrote for the movies along with Kieslowski didn't know how to write for the screen and he would just sit and talk about the characters and plots while the latter penned a proper screenplay. From one perspective, that's what these movies are about - a mature talk about life, love, relationship maintenance, coincidences....

Lead Roles: Juliette Binoche, Irène Jacob, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Zbigniew Zamachowski, Julie Delpy

Cinematographer for 'Red' - Piotr Sobocinski
Cinematographer for 'White' - Edward Klosinski
Cinematographer for 'Blue' - Slawomir Idziak

Original Score - Zbigniew Preisner

Written by Krzysztof Kieslowski & Krzysztof Piesiewicz

Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski

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