After seeing the first part of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colors trilogy, Blue (1993), last week, I was able to see the second and third installments, White and Red (both 1994), yesterday and today. Like Three Colors: Blue, I was able to see its counterparts on the big screen at the Museum of Modern Art, where the cinematography of each film was always amazing to behold.
Like Blue, White is about the complexities of personal relationships. The necessities of going to great lengths for love, friendship and money sometimes fracture the bonds between characters, but in their strange ways, resolutions can be found. Like the way this delicate statue is fixed up, the protagonist and his spouse find a way to return to each other, bizarre as the plot turns out to be.
The protagonist, the double-named hairdresser Karol Karol, is played by a wonderful Polish actor named Zbigniew Zamachowski. His ever-widening eyes are superb at reflecting light as well as they reflect the comic madness often happening around Karol.
Julie Delpy, playing Dominique, Karol’s wife, does not have a particularly likeable character, one of the film’s main weaknesses. You understand that Karol sees something in her – perhaps just her physical beauty – but it’s unclear what he is attracted to in her personality. At least the moments where we see her at the wedding are terrifically photographed by Edward Klosinski.
The harsh natural landscape of Poland has a brutal kind of beauty. Even when Karol is beaten up by some thugs upon his reentry to his homeland, you can’t help admiring how Kieslowski and Klosinski have created such arresting images of the country. No matter how many slightly confusing directions the narrative moves in, White continues to satisfy the viewer on a visual level.
The final part of the Three Colors trilogy, Red, was also Kieslowski’s final film before his untimely death at age 54 during open-heart surgery in 1996. Irène Jacob plays Swiss student and model Valentine (a red-related name, of course), seen above in a photoshoot for a chewing-gum ad campaign. She starts out as a slightly moody but basically happy character, hoping to be reunited with her boyfriend, who is in England. It is when she accidentally runs over a dog that she crosses paths with a retired judge (an excellent Jean-Louis Trintignant), who changes her outlook on life.
The image of Valentine from the photoshoot looms large for Swiss citizens. Trintignant, among other characters, sees the banner at various points in the film. It is one of the many examples of how skilled cinematographer Piotr Sobocinski was – he received an Oscar nomination for his work – at capturing the color red.
I love the hall where one of the fashion shows Valentine is in takes place. The seats, the walls and the stage all showcase red in such an engaging way. Kieslowski knew how to fill each frame with exciting production design/set decoration.
This is another great image from Red. I like the way that the curtains and windows are incorporated, which feel like a tie to Three Colors: White and its use of unusually bright white light.
Ultimately the film completes the trilogy’s sense of connectivity. There is great sadness at knowing that it is the final work by director Kieslowski, but the film’s final minutes bring a kind of closure to the Three Colors films as well as suggesting some possibilities for new beginnings. You probably don’t need to wait to see these films on the big screen, but I would suggest seeing them in order (Blue, White, Red). They’re all good experiences for any dedicated cinéaste.