Krzysztof Kieślowski is a director I’m admittedly not as familiar with as I would like to be. Having seen “The Double Life of Veronique” I immediately was hooked on his visual style, and almost operatic storytelling. Using melodic music to enhance the very dreamlike camera movements, Kieślowski evokes strong emotions while at the same time giving the audience an almost surreal viewing experience. Emotions are portrayed by facial expressions, and musically enhanced themes that challenge the viewer to look into their beliefs and come to terms with what’s playing out on screen. I saw all of this in that one film, and it was such a savory experience that I was immediately invested in this autuer’s career. All of this in mind, there was a clear answer when I was asked what I wanted for christmas this year, and that was Kieślowski’s Three Colors trilogy. Santa came through, and on December 26th I spent a day with Kieślowski. I’m going to briefly review the themes and films in the following…Three Colors: Blue
Blue opens with a family on a journey. Accompanied by haunting music, you can sense that it’s not going to have a happy ending. There’s no manipulative voice over that would simply ruin this haunting opening. It uses the art of cinema to allow the audience to connect the dots themselves. This method continues throughout the entire film. Every scene gives insight to this main character of Julie without ever spelling it out in completely graspable terms. We the viewer are challenged to look back into our heartbreak in order to understand her struggles, her thoughts, and her thought processes. Throughout the rest of the film, we follow Julie on a journey of her own to deal with the loss of her husband and daughter. At it’s heart it is a personal journey through grief that also causes us to reflect on our own past. There are so many beautiful visual motifs that are used to express the despair that the main character is feeling. They may not always click in the audience’s brain, but they cling in the back of their memory growing in their meaning and relevance. It encompasses such a depressing story in such a warm and sympathetic way that I couldn’t help but be encouraged and even inspired to root for this character, and seek that preverbal light at the end of the tunnel for her. A beautifully crafted film that seeks to empathize with grief and give the needed push forward into healing.
This trilogy is meant to act as a thematic symbol for the French flag. Blue here represents liberty, or freedom, and I think what Kieślowski is getting at here is that in order to be truly free, you must forgive and love the past for what it is; otherwise you will forever be held hostage by it. The main character believes she is finding freedom by trying to destroy the past, but in reality she is becoming more and more enslaved by it. This could be a parable for any struggle, but it is shown in its most vivid form here, with the loss of a loved one.Three Colors: White
White is the most easily accessible film from this Polish filmmaker. On its surface it’s a tale of revenge, and also marriage healing. There is much below the surface, just like every Kieślowski film, but I felt that it was set up in too much of a straight forward narrative in order to tell the story. There wasn’t enough artistic flare like in his prior films for me to connect to him as the director. He felt distant from this story instead of a guide for the audience. It has been labeled as a comedy, but I didn’t see that. It’s a very serious film with flares of comedy here and there. It wasn’t as rewarding as the more ambiguous stories in his filmography. It still maintained intrigue the whole way because of the actors’ charismatic performance. The main theme running throughout the film is that money can buy anything, even revenge. On the flip side of that, that greed will create animosity between those around you. The place where the film falls apart for me, was in the central relationship. I never believed they were a real couple, and I never understood why there was so much vengeful feelings between them. It had many great scenes, some great visual motifs, and glances into Kieślowski’s artists’ eye. These characters just didn’t jump into reality for me, which distanced me from the emotional payoff.
White represents equality, and that theme comes up again and again between the interactions of the characters. In a tale of revenge, it’s obvious that you are going to have situations where one character wants to make another character feel as badly as they themselves feel. I’m not going to spoil anything, but that concept appears in more than simply character interactions, and it is also juxtaposed by characters who give of themselves more than they get. These themes are more subtle, and are at times lost in the narrative shuffle, but they are still rewarding when you recognize them.Three Colors: Red
Red is probably the most ambiguous of the three colors trilogy. There is no real way to summarize the film’s plot, and yet it hits home in a blunt and conflicting way. There is truth affecting the audience as the plot plays out. It’s almost a culmination of Kieślowski up until this point in my watching of his filmography. It brings up the major themes of trust in the technology age, sacrificing comfort for morals, and even maintaining trust in humanity instead of pointing the flaws out in people. These are themes which create a pleasant environment to live in, and in that respect this is Kieślowski’s most political film in the three colors trilogy. It ties all of the stories from the previous films together by showing us that with these morals tightly grasped, that we can create a society that is pleasant to live in. It’s a personification of Kieślowski’s love for France and also a call to confront people on their own hypocrisy. It’s plot is concise and thoroughly fleshed out in a way that wraps the entire trilogy into a delicious mixture of grief, comedy, and friendship.
The concept of fraternity is here represented most extensively by Valentine and the aging judge. Through their friendship, the film expresses all of the above mentioned themes, and the evolution of the characters is a joy to watch. The entire film is made up of beautifully crafted scenes that tell the audience more in its’ camera movements then a line of dialogue ever could. It’s the display of a master at work.
I was deeply moved by this trilogy. It’s vibrant colors, piercing themes, and personal characters will remain with me. It’s a glorious example of the art form cinema can become.