Three Colors: Red

Three Colors: Red ★★★★½

Krzysztof Kieślowski's finale for his Three Colors trilogy was one that people didn't have to wait too long for, as just eight months after Blue premiered in Venice, and three months after White was awarded for the director's unique thematic continuation, Red premiered at Cannes, where the jury and snooty Frenchman would see how Kieślowski would interpret fraternity (or the interconnection of disparate people through happenstance rather than common ideals or interests) and see where his "anti-romance" would go. Summarizing what seems to be a common theme in every one of his works, that is to say we all live in a universe of fate, it became not only a fitting end to a trilogy connected through doomed love and the tribulations that come with it, but also a fitting end to Kieślowski's career as a whole, a sentiment surely on the back of his mind when he announced he would be retiring from filmmaking shortly after his final film's premiere. With its questions towards our own obsessions to the past and future, and what little we seem to know that can have an effect on the latter, the warm conclusion is a stunning film that lives up to its acclaim.

Two stories emerge, one of part-time model Valentine befriending the retired cynical judge Joseph, and another of criminal law student Auguste and his personal woes. Although the two rarely join directly together in a synchronous way, the little hand of fate nevertheless steers parallelism into the lives of our main characters, where trivial mistaken paths wander through uncanny similarities, romances that could never be, and coincidences too strong to suggest Valentine, Joseph, or Augustine have much control in their lives beyond what fate decrees it to be. Interpersonal communication becomes a difficulty everyone must work through, as telephones become the contradictory device that reveals detached loneliness within the small world all of our major characters are a part of, as Joseph listens in on the deceitful conversations people have over the phone and Valentine's rushed attempts to answer the phone for her boyfriend, Michel, only generates paranoia of infidelity, an untrue assessment based on circumstantial coincidence. Modern life is thus defined with simultaneous disconnection and proximity, suggestion that human inventions cannot bring people together with ease, and is still reliant on divine intervention to get the wheels of life spinning at a closer distance.

Just like before, the color red appears frequently in the film's visual palette, only here it appears much more intensely and takes on a multitude of meanings, mirroring the ambiguities towards how the present recalls the past and the possibilities inherent in a young, innocent woman like Valentine. Saturating the film with its deep hues, red comes to mean both love through passion and hate through relational doubt, life through the promise of a ferry ticket and death through the blood of an injured dog. Red invades nearly every single frame, and the multi-faceted messages it sends conveys a divine order just out of view, sending its patterns and rhythms into the world's fabric in a way much too subtle for our characters to see as anything more than everyday life. Red is also distinctly identified with Valentine (immediately through the red heart symbol many recognize and connect her name to, and strikingly through the glowing red backdrop for a large-scale advertisement several characters stop on the road to stare longingly at) thanks to the infinite potentials she has before her, such that allows her to listen to the lessons from a judge limited in his capabilities, or assist in her fraternity through small acts of kindness, that even with fate deciding where she'll go, it doesn't change her capabilities of "being" and the idealism defines her as a person more than destiny.

Kieślowski finishes the ethos and spirit of Three Colors by making Red just as unpredictable, philosophically-rich, and cosmically destined as the two films prior, creating a world moreso than a story that unifies itself briefly, yet perfectly and in tune with the patterns set upon beforehand. Solemnly, it inquires into human nature and the need for connection almost similarly to Blue, as well as tries to redefine White's definition for equality in ways just as complex, ambiguous, and subtle as what we've witnessed in Karol's and Dominique's eyes, yet the new eyes here hold glimmers of optimism too warm and prophetic to ignore. Love and the chance encounters that make the world smaller than we take it for almost seem like the most obvious connections all the films share, yet Kieslowski's ambition allowed purposeful fortuity to create different meanings for anyone similar stuck in a world defined by chance, and the deliberate incoherence in style and tone (complete with rapid zooms completely foreign from any of his films as far as I'm aware of) embraces that randomness in order to accept, and learn from modern life, and the few things that seem to stay constant throughout. The finale is as gobsmacking as I've heard, and it concludes one of the most satisfyingly great trilogies out there.

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