Three Colors: Red

Three Colors: Red ★★★★★

The previous entries in the Three Colours trilogy had led me to believe the director's assignation of the colours to the films was nothing more than an arbitrary stylistic choice, but Red dispelled that notion in my mind. I'd known that the colours were chosen to reflect the French revolutionary ideals of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity as represented in that country's flag, but Kieślowski's elusive style made it difficult to identify just why that conceit had anything to do with the films themselves.

Then I realised that Blue was about the liberty one thinks they encounter when freed from the strings that tie them down, namely family and acquaintances, while White is about the supposed sense of equality one gets from avenging themselves. While those two themes were dealt with in a way that mocked those who thought they applied to the situations they were in, Red goes down a different route, taking the ideal of fraternity a step further to become an examination of how fates intertwine and how we as humans are all linked by fraternal bonds.

Set in Geneva (an interesting detail: the trilogy is a Franco-Polish-Swiss co-production, and Blue and White take place in Paris and Warsaw respectively), the final instalment centres around Valentine, an aspiring model who, one night while driving, hits a dog. She returns the dog to its owner, a reclusive retired judge named Joseph Kern who spends his time listening in on his neighbours' phone calls. The two strike up a friendship, with Valentine getting to know more about Kern and his life. Alongside this story, and in close proximity with it, we see Auguste, a judge in Kern's trial (a class action is being taken against him), have a series of experiences that echo what Kern tells Valentine about his past.

Red is the best film of the trilogy by a considerable margin. Blue was the most esoteric and White the most accessible, with Red feeling like a melding of the two films' narrative styles. It is also free of the monotony of the first film as well as the meanness of the second. As it happens, it's also the most visually impressive of the three films. Piotr Sobociński's extraordinary camerawork, with its sophisticated movement and heightening of the titular colour, feels perfectly attuned to the progressively bizarre nature of the film. For a writer-director so preoccupied with things beyond our comprehension, Kieślowski's writing has a welcome naturalism which is especially strong when delivered by performers as seasoned as Irène Jacob and Jean-Louis Trintignant. Zbigniew Preisner's music was ravishing as per usual.

It takes some time for the film to work its spell, but when you begin to feel it, its potency is astonishing. Three Colours: Red, and the trilogy as a whole, is an utterly mesmerising work of art whose poeticism is offset by its sideways look at human nature, destiny and circumstance. I finally got the symbolism of the old woman with the bottles, too.

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