THREE COLORS TRILOGY
Review by Ed Nguyen
small nation of Poland may seem an unusual country to produce one of cinema's
modern masters. And yet, over the
last quarter of the twentieth-century, it was home to one of Europe's finest
film directors ever. His name?
Krzysztof Kieslowski (that's CHEES-TOFF KEYS-LOSS-KEE).
Kieslowski's name may be unwieldy and generally unfamiliar to western
audiences, but his best films transcend all language and politics.
Sweden's well-regarded Ingmar Bergman, Kieslowski was an actor's director.
He was interested in exploring the complexities and subtleties of human
relationships. Though meticulous in his preparations and direction, he
nonetheless often allowed his actors' performances to serve as the emotional
heart of his films. Kieslowski
shunned intrusive action or unnecessary dialogue.
As a result, many of his films possessed an East European and decidedly
un-Hollywood flavour. They were
exquisitely crafted and deliberately-paced, focusing upon the minutiae of life
that defined the characters and their actions.
Kieslowski often wove evocative dream-states around simple tales,
creating worlds that felt real and yet existed not entirely within the conscious
realm. La Double vie de Veronique is a good example of one such film.
But of his numerous other works, the one most recognized by western
audiences today is his final masterpiece - Trois
Couleurs (the Three Colors Trilogy).
Kieslowski started his directorial career making documentaries.
It was not until 1976 that he directed his first full-length feature (Blizna).
The film won first prize at the Moscow Film Festival and helped to
establish Kieslowski as a leader in the cinema of moral
anxiety. This Polish film movement included a number of other
prominent directors, such as Andrzej Wajda and Agnieszka Holland, and its
objective was to use the language of film to subtly depict Polish oppression
under communism. Ironically,
Kieslowski was never interested in the Cold War dynamics of the real world and
sought to avoid political agendas in all his films.
Though the political atmosphere of the day constrained Kieslowski's
talents initially, the eventual collapse of communism in Poland freed Kieslowski
to experiment cinematically. His
subsequent films can be included among the best of the contemporary European
crowning achievement in the 1980's was the mini-series, Dekalog. A ten-hour
film whose segments drew thematic inspiration from the Ten Commandments, Dekalog
was a tremendous artistic triumph. Kieslowski's
1991 follow-up, La Double vie de Veronique,
brought him further international acclaim.
The film was a surreal meditation on identity and awareness and featured
a luminous Irene Jacob. It was in
many ways a test-run for Trois Couleurs.
Perhaps encouraged by the enthusiastic reception for La
Double vie de Veronique, Kieslowski announced that his next ambitious
project would be a trilogy of films. These
films would expound upon the ideals symbolized by the three colors of the French
flag. The first film, Bleu (Blue), would represent liberty. The second film, Blanc
(White), would represent equality. The
last film, Rouge (Red), would
represent fraternity and would provide a common link to the three films in its
conclusion. While separately the
films would be different in tone, together, they would form a Magnus Opus - Trois
For reviews of the individual films, click on the links below.