Three Colors: Red

Three Colors: Red ★★★★

Fraternité

It almost seems inappropriate and downright uninspired having recently reviewed Blue and White to invoke Roger Ebert’s take on Kieslowski’s Three Colours trilogy. As the law of diminishing returns would dictate, referring to Red as an anti-romance, while perfectly valid, just doesn’t carry the same energy; the same sadly goes for the notion of raising the film’s thematic symmetry with its predecessors, as – again – the filmmaker’s keen eye focuses on the inherently human inability to disentangle the present from the past, as the relationship between the two more often than not resembles the Gordian knot and requires a more radical approach.

However, the film’s allegedly central narrative strand involving a platonic relationship developing between a young woman and a retired judge doesn’t encompass the film’s mission in its entirety, as it seems to have been Kieslowski’s intention to be a part of a much bigger and more elaborate mosaic that connects the pedal notes carried over from the previous films with the loosely overarching notion of imbuing each of the stories with one of the French revolutionary values to form a chord; a fitting crescendo to a titanic opera of human complexity.

I will have to admit, though, that out of the three films I found this one a bit too difficult to resonate with, reasons for which remain not entirely clear to me. While it is once more saturated with visual poetry and extremely cleverly positioned instances of narrative self-awareness that may even subvert the viewer’s own expectations of the story, Red was maybe a bit too smart for its own good. Alternatively, it is possible that the dominant minor key of Blue and White reverberated more strongly with my own innate perception of aesthetics and thematic depth. While I don’t think I would ever be able to describe the end result as being underwhelmed by this film, it didn’t connect with me as profoundly.

Nevertheless, Red should be appreciated as a fitting epilogue both to this triptych and Kieslowski’s career as a whole. He spent his entire career trying to understand and celebrate human life, relationships and broadly-understood spirituality as a key component of the force of life. Hence, I suppose it isn’t entirely surprising that Red climbs a few rungs higher in its aspiration to assume a much broader look at the complexity and interconnectedness of human interactions. It is a truly intricate treaty about finding kinship in unlikely places, facing up to one’s past mistakes and much more.

Some filmmakers are cinematic equivalents of novelists or playwrights. I think Krzysztof Kieslowski was a poet of cinema and as such his films ought to be seen as poems. Consequently, one should never assume to be able to extract everything there is to find from a poem upon a single reading. One can often find new meanings in words and phrases and therefore project entire new themes upon them simply as a matter of having matured as a human between readings. This is how I view Kieslowski’s work. He was a poet whose words I will come to re-interpret in the future and perhaps one day I will be able to rationalize a bit more precisely why Red felt like a great film on a subconscious level without manifesting itself as one upon this particular viewing.

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