Search Results for: Three Colors Trilogy

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A shot from Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colors: Red

Chance, Hope & Somber Vigor: “Three Colors: Red” (1994) 

It is not so much the fragility of life but the fragility of chance that most affects us. Krzysztof Kieślowski was no stranger to this, as the idea of happenstance can be seen within his earlier films (Blind Chance, 1987, and The Double Life of Veronique, 1991). Just what would our lives be were we elsewhere or if we had not chanced upon another? Three Colors: Red is the final film within his Three Colors Trilogy and it is the most complex, as it works not just independently but also in concert with the other two. In his review, Roger Ebert notes: ‘In the trilogy, “Blue” is the anti-tragedy, “White” is the anti-comedy, and “Red” is the anti-romance.’ The beginning of Red is the shot of telephone lines and in them contain human voices, as they carry across continents. At any moment, we might join one another or our communication could break apart, thus rendering us alone and without contact. 

The film stars Irene Jacob as Valentine, a young model who longs for her out of reach boyfriend. We never see him—we only hear him over the phone, where he regards her indifferently. She tells him that she misses him but he responds with, ‘me too.’ Based on his coldness, he doesn’t love her but he still tells her that he might love her. ‘That’s not the same,’ she replies. One night, Valentine hits a German shepherd with her car. The dog is bleeding and the collar indicates that her name is Rita. Valentine frantically returns the dog to her owner—a reclusive, retired judge (played by Jean-Louis Trintignant). Valentine pushes herself in when he does not answer the door. Upon the news, he reacts with indifference. She then takes Rita to a vet and comes to learn that the dog is pregnant. The Judge sends Valentine payment, but he sends more than the cost of the bill. When she goes to return his money, she finds him eavesdropping on his neighbor’s conversations. Chastising him, Valentine informs him that she pities him, but he realizes that it is more disgust that she feels. ‘People have a right to their secrets,’ she says.  […]

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A stylized still from Krzysztof Kieślowski's "White"

Revenge for the Unrequited: Krzysztof Kieślowski’s “Three Colors: White” (1994)

Heartache is never easy. Especially when one feels love for another that goes unreturned. White is the second film within Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colors Trilogy, and it offers a great contrast to that of the somber, melancholic Blue. White stars Zbigniew Zamachowski as Karol, a pathetic Polish man who seems to have everything go wrong. To begin, his wife, played by Julie Delpy, is divorcing him on the grounds that their marriage was never consummated. But not before entering the courthouse does he have a Paris pigeon land its white shit upon him. This seems to be a metaphor for his marriage, and whilst we’re at it, his life. His ex-wife, Dominique, is needlessly cruel towards him. She dumps his suitcase at the courthouse, only to leave him stranded. She has cut off his money, and so he is forced to wander about Paris before deciding to sleep within their mutually owned salon. (He works as a hairdresser.) He still loves her—so much so, that after their divorce is granted, he throws up.

Upon sight of him, she threatens to call police. He begs her to come to Poland. They then attempt sex, where he fails to perform. As a result, she sets the curtains ablaze, and says she will blame him. We do not know anything about their relationship, save that they married six months ago. But her actions are cold and cruel—especially if the man’s biggest flaw is an inability to maintain an erection. Karol escapes to the Metro station, where he is seated, playing songs through a comb and begging for money. Another Polish man approaches and speaks in his native tongue. ‘How did you know?’ Karol asks. The man informs him that he recognized the Polish tune. Eventually, Karol is shipped to Poland in a large suitcase, but it is stolen. When the thieves open it to find a man inside, they punch him and abandon him at a landfill, wherein Karol then stands beneath the circling, trash-feasting gulls and says, ‘Home at last.’ […]

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A screenshot of Juliette Binoche in "Blue" by Krzysztof Kieslowski

Grief & Long Suffering in Krzysztof Kieslowski’s “Three Colors: Blue” (1993)

There are many ways grief is undertaken. Some are long sufferers but hold it in, and others react outwardly and immediately. They say that it has five stages, but how someone progresses from one stage to the next depends on that individual, as there is no right or wrong way to go about it. Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Blue might be one of the best films ever to touch upon grief and what it does to a person. How does one approach such tremendous loss, like the death of one’s husband and daughter? How does one even begin to live again?

Juliette Binoche plays Julie, a wife and mother who loses her family in a car accident. The event takes place within the film’s first few moments. Her husband, a successful composer, crashes their car into a tree. Only Julie survives. An onlooker comes to her rescue, and next we see images of the hospital doctor reflected within her eye, informing her that both her husband and daughter are dead. Turns out her husband was in midst of telling a joke when the car crashed. 

Julie does not cry. Or if she does, we don’t witness it. Yet she is visibly upset and tries to attempt suicide by swallowing a bottle of pills, but she is unable to go through with it. She is curt with others—‘You used to be nicer,’ a reporter, who is asking about her deceased husband, tells her. ‘My husband and daughter are dead,’ Julie says. It is rumored that she composed much of his work. But how much, we don’t know. She watches her husband and daughter’s funeral on a portable TV screen while still in hospital. There is something sad and distant about this—that she—this wife and mother— has now become a stranger, separate from her husband’s life. It is through the TV where she later learns her husband had a mistress, who is expecting his child. […]

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A stylized shot from Andrzej Wajda's "A Generation", depicting the protagonist as he observes Nazi soldiers walking towards him. There is text of the director's name and the film title.

Gathering Resistance: Andrzej Wajda’s “A Generation” (1955)

It is always interesting to watch a film trilogy where one can see the progression of a director’s talent. However, unlike Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colors Trilogy, which consists of three film narratives interdependent upon one another, Andrzej Wajda’s War Trilogy connects only through its similar theme—resistance. Before Kanal and Ashes and Diamonds, Wajda directed A Generation, which is set around the survival of a group of young men during the Nazi occupation of Poland. The film’s straightforward narrative details a young protagonist, Stach, who joins an underground communist resistance movement once he learns what little value his wages offer vis-à-vis those his employer makes off his labor. Young enough to still carry idealism, it is this idealism that Stach uses to comfort his depressed mother who lives in squalor with a rabbit that runs loose. He reassures her that he will find work, and in doing so, this young, idealistic man joins the resistance believing that this will be for some greater good because, as is, life can’t get any worse.

The opening scene contains Stach’s first-person voiceover informing us that he grew up in a slum outside Warsaw, and that to entertain himself, he and his friends (one played by Zbigniew Cybulski from Ashes and Diamonds) flick knives into the haystacks. The three seem to be enjoying this last moment of playfulness as rebellious youths who were forced to grow up too fast. […]

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A stylized shot from Krzysztof Kieślowski's "The Double Life of Veronique", depicting Veronique (Irene Jacob) being kissed by her lover.

Feeling Invites the Reason: On Krzysztof Kieślowski’s “The Double Life of Veronique” (1991)

Have you ever felt that your life, while real in the most personal sense, could also exist simultaneously elsewhere, even if lived by some other person? Just what might that entail? In my youth, I’d often imagine living in France—perhaps I’d have moved there after living as an exchange student, but then, I’d remember the emotion that brings me back to the familiar. And while it is easy to romanticize, one must remember that wherever this imaged place and person resides, that the same problems will exist there—perhaps not in degree, but in kind.

Krzysztof Kieślowski’s The Double Life of Veronique is indeed a film of feeling. In fact, this is how Roger Ebert opens his review: ‘Here is a film about a feeling. Like all feelings, it is one that can hardly be described in words, although it can be evoked in art. It is the feeling that we are not alone, because there is more than one of us. We are connected at a level far, far beneath thought. We have no understanding of this. It is simply a feeling that we have.’ He chooses the word feeling, and while I don’t disagree, my instinct wants to instead reach for the word intuition, which is somewhat similar, but evokes more of the body—taste, touch, sensation. Within this film, that which goes on is rarely stated, but implied. […]

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A shot of the two leads from Richard Linklater's "Before Sunset", second film of the "Before Trilogy"

The Magic, The Sunset: Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunset” (2004)

We’d like to think that being a few years older and a few years wiser could offer us our much needed life do over. Scenes replay in our minds: if only I could have met that person now, I might have reacted differently. And it is not so much the events and eras that change, but rather, our perspectives. Only time can help shape that. Life will often, more or less, remain the same.

It is now nine years later, and Jesse and Celine are both nine years older. He’s written a book and is giving a reading in Paris, which is where Celine lives. She shows up. The book is about their night together, and Celine admits that she’s read the book twice. At the end of Before Sunrise, we don’t know if the characters will meet in six months. In Before Sunset, we come to learn that Celine’s grandmother died and was buried on the day they were supposed to meet. Hence, she could not come to Vienna. But he did. He admits to waiting and feeling that disappointment and perhaps this missed meeting was the thing that jaded them both to the idea of Romantic love.

The characters, now that they’re older, are also more levelheaded. Celine has an environmental job and Jesse works as a writer/professor. He is in a loveless marriage and she is dating a guy who is never around. She admits that men enter her life, only to depart, but not before thanking her for showing them what love is. This makes her angry and resentful. Celine, while still the same, is more outspoken than her earlier character. She is a feminist who punishes herself for still having these Romantic longings. ‘The concept that we should find one person to spend our lives with is evil,’ she says. […]

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A shot of Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in Richard Linklater's "Before Sunrise" (1995)

Wistful Dissolve: Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunrise” (1995)

Within one of my short story collections, I have a tale that begins, ‘Only the summers counted as time.’ The story, while having a very different setting than that of Richard Linklater’s 1995 classic Before Sunrise, captures somewhat similar ideas. ‘That was 30 years ago, and so that means 30 summers,’ a summer camp counselor said. This quote stuck with me, so much so, that my childhood summers felt like they stood outside as a sort of time.

I recall my first moment watching this film. It would have been summer, 1995 after renting the cassette from Blockbuster. I worked my job, and late into the night I watched the film on VHS and felt myself brought to Vienna, wandering the streets with these two characters. Oh, and how I wished I could find a guy as cute and as deep as Ethan Hawke who, within this film, embodies the young, artistic girl’s fantasy. ‘I didn’t just go to Europe to read Hemingway,’ he tells Celine (Julie Delpy). ‘I came to be anonymous.’ […]