CatherineShort’s review published on Letterboxd:
This was the best film in the Three Colors trilogy, it managed to incorporate the serious melodrama of Blue and the delicate balance of humor and darkness in White to produce a romantic film in which the two leads do not interact until the final moments of the film. Mysticism and the idea that two people were ‘meant’ to meet was a theme in all three films but here this idea is delved into the most and we even get a figure who resembles a Delphic Oracle. I had only seen Irene Jacob in U.S. Marshals (1998) and I was not aware of her abilities as a dramatic actress but here the entire cast is magnificent as weird, delightful people who don’t feel as though they would usually be characters in a romantic film but combine to form an interesting study of relationships and the nature of intimacy.
Valentine, Irene Jacob, works as a model, is a ballet student and appears to be pursuing higher education but her life seems empty as she is only seen contacting her boyfriend, Michel, over the phone. One day she hits a dog and discovers that the dog’s owner, Joseph, Jean-Louis Trintignant, spies on his neighbors by listening to their private telephone conversations. Although Valentine is initially morally outraged she adjusts her outlook on life as he teaches her about his personal moral philosophy. Concurrently we see a young judge Auguste, Jean-Pierre Lorit, whose experiences echo those of Joseph as a young man. It is understood that there is a connection between the two young, slightly lost people and Kern’s belief that she will end up happy with a man appears to be true as the two finally meet at the end of the film.
My mother’s initial problem with the film was that Valentine was not very clearly defined as a character and that the fact that she was a model and a ballet student made her appear both shallow and as though she was a male fantasy. I believe that she was developed as a character as I believe we see that there is something missing from her life at the beginning of the film and although she tries to fill that hole with many things only love will be able to make her truly happy. Her modeling is also an important element of her character because we see that she does not just put on costumes and pretend in her job but in her personal life. She is a compelling lead and her strength is not shown through loud, screechy monologues or her physically abusing a man but through her forthrightness in her interactions with those around her.
The romantic elements of the film are handled with care as Kieslowski is careful to never let the film slip into being sappy or sentimental because that’s simply not his style. Joseph’s philosophy is harsh and often confrontational but it is clear that his conviction that Valentine will find lasting love. Pain and heartbreak are not seen as something to be erased from the human experience, they are seen as essential elements of finding love. Without heartbreak how can we properly relish the feeling of being in love, the difficulty of continuing a relationship despite impediments and the importance of getting back up again after having been knocked down. The uniting of our two lovelorn leads is such an ecstatic moment because these two have faced immense pains in their love lives leading up to this moment and we, the audience, are so desperate to see them find the person who won’t break their heart or neglect them.
The film can be watched and understood by anybody, even myself who has never been in a romantic relationship, because we have all witnessed love and heartbreak. They are universal emotions and Kieslowski brings them to life in a film that feels oddly like the mix of a fairytale and the preamble to a Werner Herzog documentary. Loving this film has caused me to be labeled a ‘ pretentious hipster’ by my friends but I really don’t care because this is a great film that deserves to be loved by more than just film critics and cineastes.