Kieslowski's Three Colors Trilogy

Today I watched the last film in the Three Colors Trilogy. I really enjoyed all of them, and am so happy to have finally seen them. The three films were directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski, and the last one, Red, was completed in 1994. Ebert writes that he planned to retire from filmmaking after these were finished - and he did. He died two years later, only 56.

I really have loved all of the films that I have seen from him. They really have a great sense of artistry and feel unique to me. I like how ambiguous they all are, too. There isn't just one clear-cut meaning for all the films, and they give me a lot to think about after they are over. The Three Colors trilogy is no different. There is so much meaning to be found, and there are lots of symbols and themes that come up in all three movies. It makes it really fun (for dorks like me) to ponder about afterward.
Each film has it's own unique plot, and they are not really alike in story in any way. However, they are tied together through symbols, colors, and themes that come up in each of them. I think this is a really interesting way to approach a trilogy. We're very used to films in a series just being linked in plot alone, but I like that something more complicated links these movies together. It's nice that it's not like, I don't know, overly complicated, though. The films all have re-occurring images, like elderly people trying to recycle glass bottles. They also use color in the same way, as a link to the character's past. I know those don't sound like big things, but it helps to bridge the films together since they are all about such different things.

I'm not sure if it's useful to describe the plots at all, since the movies are so different. This is sort of a difficult post, haha! I'll try to do like, a one sentence summary.

Blue is about a woman named Julie who deals with the death of her husband and child. She tries to sever ties with people around her and live a solitary life, which proves harder than it sounds.

White is about a man named Karol who is getting divorced from his wife, mostly because he is terrible in bed. He tries to build a new life for himself in Warsaw, and plots against his wife.

Red is about a woman named Valentine. She hits a stray dog when driving one night and is able to save it, but it's owner no longer wants the dog. She often chats with the man, realizes that he is ease dropping on the phone calls of all of his neighbors.

Those are the worst summaries, but at least you have some vague idea what the movies are about. I know that the big obvious thing here is that people are dealing with modern issues in France or in French society, and the films are named after the colors of the French flag. The films themselves are heavily saturated in their colors, as well. I think that after seeing the films I could come up with so many meanings behind the colors, though. They all serve as links to the characters pasts, but they also seem to reflect things about the character. Blue is stereotypically a color for sadness or melancholy feelings, and it's so present in the first movie where Julie has lost her family. White is a film that focuses on a guy whose marriage (which provokes white imagery) is going badly because he's boring, which makes me think of a plain color like that. And then red is about a model, and models are beautiful and often associated with lust, which is associated with the color red (and her name, even!). Blah blah blah, I could keep going, but you see how easy it is to come up with so many different meanings for things in the film.

Ebert has this fantastic way that he divides up the films as well, writing, "In the trilogy, "Blue" is the anti-tragedy, "White" is the anti-comedy, and "Red" is the anti-romance" (Great Movies II, 219). I think this is a great way to look at the movies, because you can see in all of the plots how they could have gone in a more generic direction. Blue certainly could have a been a tragedy, exploring the loss and sorrow of Julie after the car crash, but somehow, it avoids this. Red might have a been a romance, had Valentine and the old judge been closer in age. I think this makes an odd sort of sense.


There is so much that you can think about with these movies. Ebert writes that, "Kieslowski tells the parable but doesn't preach the lesson. It's the same with his "Decalogue," where each film is based on one of the Ten Commandments, but it is not always possible to say which commandment, or precisely what the film is saying about it" (Great Movies II, 219). I think this is what makes watching these films such a great, rich experience, and they stay with you for a long time after you have seen them.

If any of this doesn't sound like too much of a snore-fest, I highly recommend checking these out. They are all pretty short, and are all really great, beautiful movies. I kept meaning to watch these, since I was in high school, actually, and I'm so glad that I finally have. I'm glad I saw them when I wasn't so dumb, too, hahaha! Seriously, these were great movies, and you should see them. :)



Links:
Ebert's Great Movie essay on Three Colors
Buy them on Amazon

Kind Hearts and Coronets

Kieślowski's Three Colors Trilogy