Friday, 26 August 2011
Three Colours - Red
Starring: Irène Jacob, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Frédérique Feder, Jean-Pierre Lorit, Samuel Le Bihan
By Alan Bacchus
Red, White and Blue, the glorious trilogy of French films from legendary Polish director Krzysztof Kieślowski are essential viewing for lovers of international cinema. Using the three national colours of France, representing Equality, Liberty and Fraternity, Kieślowski creates a thematically complex yet wholly accessible linked trilogy. Unlike traditional film franchises, sequels and threequels, each of these films is unique and self-contained. There’s no particular order in which they need to be seen, with the films freely weaving themselves in and out of one another with grace.
Kieślowski specifically chose three different cinematographers to shoot his films resulting in three distinct ‘looks’. Blue, shot by Slawomir Idziak, is dark and brooding, using predominantly blues (of course), but also deep yellows and noirish grey shadows concealing much of his frames. White is the least stylistic, a bright and traditionally composed imagery subordinate to the narrative, while Red is shot with a dreamy, romantic, effortless style, both energetic and effervescent.
While it’s painful to even consider ranking these films, arguably Red is the standout picture. It’s the last of the three colours films, garnering Mr. Kieślowski two Oscar nominations for Best Director and Best Screenplay. Portraying the theme of Fraternity, Kieślowski puts us in the shoes of Valentine (Irene Jacob), a model who accidentally hits a dog while driving home after a photo shoot. Her compassion for the animal causes her to seek out her owner, thus sparking a remarkable, enlightening journey of discovery and reconciliation of her own inner anguish.
Red is the most romantic of the three films, hence the use of that colour prominently throughout. Yet, Kieślowski’s heroine never experiences love. We can feel love in the air, like God almighty moving his characters around like chess pieces on a board to be in a position to fall in love, or at least release themselves of their fates. Such is the happenstance meeting of Valentine and Kern, the dog’s sad owner, who spends his days listening in on his neighbour’s conversations before his emotional reconciliation brought out by Valentine’s gentle innocence.
As with the other two films, Kieślowski uses coincidence and chance to express his themes of existence, love, repentance and forgiveness. His use of parallel narratives that twist and turn within one another and even double-back through the other films of the trilogy (although sometimes obliquely) gloriously connects all three characters as one form of human conscience. Red is elliptical without being self-consciously clever. It’s a glorious finale to this landmark series.