Three Colors: Red

Three Colors: Red ★★★★½

Three Colours Red is concerned with the crisscrossing of lives. It explores the interconnectedness of our actions - how one thing we say or do can ripple out and disrupt the lives of many others, including those we do not know. In doing so it suggests that life is unpredictable and precarious. But it is also hopeful in suggesting that acts of kindness can be pervasive.

The film engages with these concerns with great imagination and invention. The first part of the film presents Valentine (Irene Jacob) as a young woman, innocent, empathetic and caring. As we watch her go about her daily life we witness small tensions accumulating around her. These are built on two levels. Firstly the environmental: her malfunctioning car radio and alarm, the repeatedly engaged telephone calls, the unpredictability of the weather. Secondly, the interpersonal: her possessive and yet indifferent boyfriend, her troubled brother, and culminating with her chance meeting with Joseph (Jean-Louis Trintignant), a misanthropic retired-judge.

Joseph is Valentine’s antagonist. He is gruff and challenges her naïve beliefs. He has grown contemptuous of his old career and the impossibility of establishing objective truths. He is now reluctant to pass moral judgment over others. He recognises that appearances are always deceiving.

But with Valentine, he meets his match. Whilst his initially cruel lessons strip away at her naivety, her intrinsic goodness doesn’t falter. Her constancy begins to soften him and reveal the scars that have hardened his heart. First she rescues his dog, then she begins to rescue him, and in a platonic sense they fall in love.

This love story finds its mirror in another. Valentine’s neighbour, Auguste (Jean-Pierre Lorit), a young student aspiring to become a judge, resembles Joseph’s younger self. The similarities between Auguste and Joseph are remarkable to the point of suggesting a spiritual fraternity, or at least a repeating cycle in life’s patterns. Joseph sees in Valentine the romantic love he might once have had, and through a personal sacrifice he sets in motion the events that will lead to Auguste and Valentine having the opportunity that he could not. This is a supremely romantic act by Joseph, but it is achieved without sentiment or signposting, and is a mark of the intelligent screenplay and Kieslowski’s meticulous direction.

The final scenes of the film are notable for bringing together the main characters from Blue, White and Red. It is a fitting conclusion to a remarkable trilogy ending on a note of hope. The characters have each weathered their storms and they are exhausted, but they can now look ahead with the possibility of love.

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