(France/Poland 99m) DVD1/2
Aka. Trois Couleurs: Rouge
p Marin Karmitz d Krzysztof Kieslowski w Krzysztof Kieslowski, Krzysztof Piesiewicz ph Piotr Sobocinski ed Jacques Witta m Zbigniew Preisner art Claude Lenoir
Irène Jacob (Valentine Dusseau), Jean-Louis Trintignant (Judge Joseph Kern), Jean-Pierre Lorit (Auguste), Frédérique Feder (Karin), Samuel Lebihan (photographer), Juliette Binoche (Julie, from Blue), Benoit Régent (Olivier, from Blue), Julie Delpy (Dominique, from White), Zbigniew Zamachowski (Karol Karol, from White),
Let me not waste words; Three Colours: Red is one of the greatest films of its decade by a director at the summit of modern European cinema. Kieslowski’s whole oeuvre is ripe for discovery by millions of people, from his masterful Dekalog through La Double Vie de Véronique to this final trilogy. Though he was planning another trilogy on heaven, hell and purgatory, which was incomplete after his death in 1996, surely even he couldn’t have topped matched this, the final part in his Tricolor trilogy, based on the symbolism of fraternity, and the last of his Tales of Three Cities (Paris, Warsaw and Geneva).
Valentine is a young student and model in Geneva. Her boyfriend is being unfaithful with a woman who is also being unfaithful to her partner, a young judge. One day Valentine runs over a German shepherd, which she traces back to its owner, a retired judge, who likes to listen in to the phone conversations of those in his neighbourhood.
Although we can all appreciate the liberty and equality of the earlier films, the fraternity on show in the latter is the one we have most empathy with. Red is a warm colour, symbolic of the blood that courses through our veins and keeps us alive. Our judge friend is barely living at all when first we meet him, seemingly indifferent to his pet’s plight. When he says he needs nothing, Valentine replies “then stop breathing.” He can only say “good idea.” She brings the warmth into his life that he has lacked for so long and which he has had to fill with his privacy invading, illegal eavesdropping. It was his way of connecting with the world, but it was also withdrawing him from it. Realising his error, he can only offer his young friend, who he perhaps realises is the woman he’d have loved had she come into his life a generation earlier, one word of advice; “BE!”
It’s in this film that many of the motifs come full circle. We know we’re in the same world when Valentine’s unfaithful lover says he had his car stolen in Poland (one of the crooks we saw in White, perhaps?). The lady near the bottle bank is there, too, and this time, symbolising fraternity, our heroine helps push it in for her. The colour of red is perhaps less prevalent than in the earlier instalments (a four by four car, a poster, the fashion house décor, the ferry tickets, etc), but fraternity itself is very much in evidence, as is Kieslowski’s penchant of fate and lives interlocking, carried forward from Dekalog, Véronique and the earlier portions of the trilogy. The finale is a delicate twist of fate that reunites the protagonists of all three films and the performances are so superbly crafted as to resemble intricate Fabergé eggs, the removal of one gesture of which would break them. Jacob is incredibly soulful as the compassionate Valentine, entering the judge’s house like Alice entering wonderland, and Trintignant recalls his former glories (from Bardot’s lover and and off screen in Et Dieu Créa la Femme to The Conformist) as the cynical but ultimately humanitarian old judge. Mention also must be made of the photography, elliptical script and the trademark gorgeous score from Preisner, which fills one full of a love of mankind we never knew we had. Yet this is Kieslowski’s triumph, and when the heroine murmurs that “I feel something important is happening around me”, you’d better believe it. You’ve witnessed cinematic history. If Ozu’s mantra was “isn’t life disappointing?”, Kieslowski’s has to be “isn’t life full of surprises?” If Blue was best watched alone and White with a partner, this is a film to watch with a platonic friend of the opposite sex, someone to hug and hold on to as the credits roll and Preisner’s score envelops you.