Trois Couleurs: Krzysztov Kieslowski

21Oct07

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The art of subtlety died with Keislowski. Unlike today’s filmmakers who underestimate the intelligence of the average person and burden their narratives with superficial dialogues and overly explanatory frames, Krzysztof Kieslowski left most insinuations for the audience to make. This makes the viewing of any Keislowski film a rich and rewarding experience.

Trois Couleurs Trilogy comprises of what were Keislowski’s last three films before he died in 1996. The trilogy encompasses two films which are in French and the other being predominantly in Polish. Critics believe the titles allude to the three colors of the French flag (Blue, White and Red) but according to the interview on the Collector’s Edition DVD of the film, Keislowski stresses that he gave that impression solely for the funding of his films by the French government.

Trois Couleurs: Bleu (1993) is a study of grief. Juliet Binoche plays the widow of Europe’s premier composer who dies in a car accident along with the couple’s daughter. As she regains consciousness in a hospital, she plunges into denial. The emotions are so layered and complex that I cannot imagine how this would have been at the hands of a lesser filmmaker. As her grief slowly manifests into several other emotions, the viewer is treated to life from her point of view. There is a particular scene where the camera focuses on a sugar cube soaking up coffee. The effect this scene has is enormous; Binoche’s character is trying to drown out a piece of music playing in the background that reminds her of her husband. She goes on to destroy all her husband’s notes and sells her home and belongings in a vain attempt to shield herself from the emotional debris. This is far from being a depressing film; in fact the film ends with redemption on a grand scale. The music is an integral part of the film.

Trois Couleurs: Blanc (1994) unlike the other two films is a comedy and like great comedies, arises out of personal tragedy. Zbigniew Zamachowski plays a Polish man whose French wife (Julie Delpy) wants to divorce him because he’s unable to ”consummate the marriage”. His love is comical mostly because it borders on maniacal obsession. As his life unravels, he vows revenge. He reestablishes his life in Poland and proceeds to construct an elaborate ruse aimed at his wife only to be surprised in the end. I like to think Kieslowski intended this to border on absurdism only to let us take a breath before the rousing final chapter.

Trois Couleurs: Rouge (1995), the final film in the trilogy is my favorite of the lot. The film follows the intertwining lives of a beautiful model (Irene Jacob) and her aged neighbor, a retired judge who listens in on phone conversation of people in the neighborhood. As they embark on a tumultuous relationship that has a profound impact on both, lives around them unravel in painful ways. This film is filled with symbolisms and allusions to the previous two films. The plot is unashamedly philosophical and stresses on the role of chance and the random encounters that create a butterfly effect of sorts in our lives. The narrative structure is very straightforward but you will have to pay attention to every single frame to truly appreciate the genius that is Keislowski. The climax brings together characters from all three films and the impact the final frame has on the viewer is so huge that I was left speechless the first time I watched it.

The five hours I spent watching these 3 films have been some of the most artistically and intellectually rewarding hours ever since I began my slightly more serious appreciation of cinema. I cannot claim to have understood everything Keislowski tried to say, but I’m certain that with repeated viewings and further reading, I may be able to to a certain extent. Thanks to Ruhi for reviving my interest in Keislowski and actually inspiring me to buy a copy of the Collector’s Edition.

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6 Responses to “Trois Couleurs: Krzysztov Kieslowski”

  1. @Presti, This post was long over due 🙂

    In Bleu, that sugar cube scene is actually just that. We see the sugar cube absorbing coffee from the angle of Binoche, that is, how she sees it. Nothing more. Nothing less. So simple, yet so powerful. It makes us want to attach a deeper meaning to it. All those music pieces were actually written by her and she attempts to throw away everything in an attempt to die a slow death, until she sees that man on the street playing her piece on a flute and calling it his own. And the movie takes a sharp turn. I love the way this piece on redemption has been done.

    I think I’m gonna watch Red tonight.

    Hey, have you watch the Double Life of Veronique and the Decalogue series?

  2. Nice photos by the way. Now I understand why your jacket is thinner. My DVDs have seperate DVD jackets (like traditional movie cover sleeves). But I really like the design on your cover. Looks super cool.

  3. I’ve watched A Short film about Love and one from Decalogue…Murder I think. Will watch the rest soon.

    Watch Red and tell me what you think of the final frame…it took a second for me to register but when it did…boy oh boy!

  4. 4 bApHoMEt

    my favorite scene in ‘Blue’ is when she has to kill the baby rats. It always comes to haunt me. its one of the best examples of the layers that Kieslowki builds into his films. And unlike many directors, he never imposes himself onto the scene. His shots are always naturalistic compositions. And thats a key difference between him and his peers.

    i’ve felt that Blue was the superior film of the three. Maybe i found the character angst as something i can relate to more than in the other two.

    another reason for me to admire the films is that three of my favorite European actresses play central characters in them.

  5. @Presti, I love the way he constructed the entire ferry mishap and got all the 6+1 characters together at the end. I’m sure you noticed how Irene Jacob froze in a way exactly like the Billboard Ad, symbolizing fate. Also, the very last frame shows the judge standing near a broken window, with a tear rolling down his eye- the same ending has been used in Bleu and Blanc.

    Blanc is actually my favorite, I think. Bleu and Red both win the second place. 🙂

    I think his movies are too hi-fi for even Oscars.

    @bap- I remember that scene and agree that it’s very haunting. Do you know if the blue chandelier kind of hanging had any special meaning?

  6. @Baphomet Red is my favorite mostly because I love films where two people with different ideals share a relationship. It ends up being very profound and revealing. Not exactly but pretty much the same reason I loved Lost in Translation too.

    @Ruhi The last scene where she froze like on the billboard, that’s the scene that had me speechless.

    And the blue ceiling hanging in the first film, wasn’t it the same thing she picked up from her daughter’s room?


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