Director: Krzysztof Kieślowski
Writers: Krzysztof Kieślowski & Krzysztof Piesiewicz
Cast: Irène Jacob, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Frédérique Feder, Jean-Pierre Lorit
Hello Geek Juice Readers.
This is Ryan Laskodi, former editor-in-chief of Geek Juice news, and I am back on the site..sort of. I have recently started a blog called One Movie At a Time and Alex has been kind enough to allow me to syndicate my content on Geek Juice. My goal with this blog is to review every film on the Sight and Sound Critics Poll of the Top 250 films of all time. I hope you all enjoy the reviews and will join me on this cinematic journey. With that said, let’s take a look at our first film.
Have you ever watched a film and thought to yourself: This was made solely for the critics? That was how I felt watching “Three Colors: Red,” the final entry in Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colors trilogy. I did not much care for this film, I thought it was a slightly pretentious mess with a narrative I could not connect with. By no means is this a bad film, there is some artistic merit, it’s one that I just don’t get or understand and perhaps that can be attributed to my lack of proper film education.
Irène Jacob plays Valentine, a French model. While driving home from work one day she hits a dog. The owner of the dog is a an old man, played by Jean-Louis Trintigant, who it turns out is a judge. Now this judge has a problem, he likes to eavesdrop on his neighbors telephone conversations. And…that’s all I can really say about the plot. Not for spoilers reason mind you, but because, I really don’t know how to discuss what happens after that initial set-up. Not that much happens after the initial set-up, other than some conversations. The structure and plot was very weak.
Before I discuss the problem with this film, I do need to give praise to Kieślowski direction. The film is visually stunning and artistically put together with long takes, precise editing and a wide variety of camera shots. This film is my introduction to the work of Kieślowski, and while I don’t care for this film, I imagine the rest of his filmography looks just as beautiful as this one.
The script by Kieślowski and Piesiewicz is where this film truly suffers. I found myself saying “What is this film about?” many times, and not in a good way. Judging by the plot synopsis you might think that this film is about voyeurism. The initial dialogue sequence between the judge and Irene, and even the way the film is shot, hints at the possibility of this film going in a Hitchcockian direction. However that falls by the wayside and I left myself trying to find some deeper meaning. Is this film commenting on some aspect of French society? I don’t know.
Definitely the film wants to say something, but it tries too hard and so it ends up saying up nothing. The conversations between the Judge and Irene are supposed to be profound, but the lack of characterization, motivation and arc, renders these conversation moot. I didn’t understand what the characters learned from one another at the end of this film, if anything. Furthermore, the film experiments by having a secondary narrative. However it feels like this was only added because the filmmakers thought it would make them look deep or profound.
After doing some research I have found that the Three Colors this trilogy takes its title from are the colors of the French flag: Blue, White and Red. Kieślowski takes the colors and has each one represent one of the French Revolutionary Ideals: Freedom, Equality and Brotherhood. This film is supposed to deal with the ideal of Brotherhood and it “examines [this ideal] by showing characters whose lives gradually become closely interconnected, with bonds forming between two characters who appear to have little in common.” I can see the attempt at doing this but I feel this film does not do it well. If you want to see a film where two characters that have nothing in common have to form a bond, check out 2013’s “Philomena.” That was one of my favorite films of 2013.
There are many films out there that have the artistic style that a film critic can love, but that also have a strong narrative. One that comes to mind is Wong Kar-Wai’s “Chungking Express,” which is one of my all time favorite films. “Three Colors: Red” is less “Chunkging Express” and more Terrance Malick’s “Tree of Life,” another film that I can admit is well-shot but does not hit me on a story-telling level. Kieślowski is considered to be one of the great contemporary European filmmakers and I do look forward to seeing what else he has to offer. I can only hope that “Red” is the “Godfather: Part III” of the Three Colors trilogy.