Sight and Sound Top 250 – #250 Three Colors: Red (1994)

I should note here that just because I’m writing about the film that’s number 250 on the list,  Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colors: Red, that doesn’t mean that I’m done. Since I’ve been taking these out of order, pretty much at random or on an as-I-can-catch-them basis, there’s still plenty more to go. Meanwhile, for those just joining us, you can find a full introduction to what the Sight and Sound Top 250 list is, and a look at the complete list of the movies on it, along with links to the ones I’ve already written about here. And, if you want to be sure not to miss any of these posts, just head on over to the Facebook page and give it a “like”or follow me on Twitter (both of those links are also in the sidebar) where I post anytime one of these – or anything else on the blog, along with just random other links and thoughts that may not make it into full posts – goes up. Trust me, if you’re not following one or the other (or both), you’re not getting the full Durmoose Movies experience.

***I suppose I’ll also throw a quick Spoiler Warning up here,, since I will be discussing the ending not only of this film, butalso of the entire trilogy, but only in a vague way that probably won’t resonate as well for anyone who hasn’t actually seen the film. Nonetheless, here it is.***

r1In a way, it helps to know that the last scene of Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colors: Red (or, to give it its original title, Trois couleurs: Rouge) was actually the first scene of the entire trilogy to be shot. From that perspective one can look at everything that precedes it not so much as build-up to that final seemingly far too coincidental scene, but more of a how did we get to this point explanation.

Does that make a difference? Yes, I think it does.

Red is a movie that seems to be built on coincidence, on things happening in just the right way to either bring people together or keep (or in some cases tear) them apart at just the right time.

r6However, at the same time, it asks the question that we all ask at some time when we look back and think “How did I get here from where I was?”, namely: Was is all just coincidence, or is there some higher power or plan, some guiding force at work to get me here?

Well, when we know that the convergence of the seemingly unrelated stories told in the three films was actually not only planned from the start but is actually the kick start of the trilogy then we can see that, at least in the case of the films themselves, Kieślowski himself is providing that guiding hand. The film maker becomes the weaver of the web, the guiding hand of fate.

r4Of course, this is really true of any movie, the director is the force behind what happens on screen, but for a film that actually revolves around this “bigger picture” question, and almost demands that the viewer confront the idea of fate vs free will, and of the interconnectedness not only of the lives of various people but even the places and things around them, then watching all three of the movies from the perspective that they are actually providing the backstory to that moment can put the way one watches all of them into a new light.

Of course, all of this befits a film which is built on the third pillar of the ideals of the French Revolution, Fraternity, or the brotherhood of all mankind.

r2This interconnectedness also plays out in the film itself, which, though it seems at first as though it is going to be the story of model Valentine Dussaut (played by the absolutely gorgeous Irene Jacob who also starred in Kieślowski’s The Double Life of Veronique) actually turns out to be three stories in one. First, of course, is Valentine’s story, but it is also the story of a retired judge who Valentine meets after she accidentally hits his dog with her car. Then there is the third story, seemingly at first more unconnected to the other two, that of a young law student, Auguste.

Actually, of the three, though it is Jacob’s Valentine who is the focus of the movie, and though it is her picture that is the basis not only for the poster of the film and for most of the subsequent imagery, (deservedly so, as mentioned before, she truly is one of the most beautiful women ever to grace the big screen), and though she can be seen as the catalyst for much of which is to follow, for me it is the story of the judge, Joseph Kern (played by Jean-Louis Trintignant who is probably best known for his role opposite Brigitte Bardot in Roger Vadim’s And God Created Woman) that proves to be the most intriguing.

r5At first seemingly the most isolated of the characters in the film, it turns out that he may, in one way at least, be the one who is the most connected to the goings-on of the little world that surrounds him.

Or is he?

Actually, it is the judge’s situation and actions that are perhaps the most relevant to our own society today, and to the way that we interact with each other, as they beg the question of just how do we define interaction, and how well can we know people just by observing them and listening in on them? It could very well be said that the judge’s situation is a precursor to today’s “Facebook Question”, i.e. just because we label someone as our “friend” and we regularly check their status updates and sometimes reply to them, and may even have, at times, other online interactions with them, can we really regard them as friends even though we may have never even met them face-to-face?

r3Of course, the judge’s story involves much more than just that. It also begs the question of voyeurism and just how far one should be allowed or should allow oneself to go in spying on one’s neighbors, and at what point does casual observation cross the line and become truly intrusive, creepy, and even perhaps illegal, along with the question of what responsibility does one have towards those around them when they observe things that it seems like it might be in their best interest to know? Is there an obligation to inform them of it, or is it better to let them live on in ignorance, keeping that knowledge to ourselves? It is this last question that Valentine herself must confront when she discovers the judge’s secret life.

Of course, I suppose it’s not surprising that it’s this story line that most intrigues me, since the questions that it raises are essentially the same ones raised in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, which I have long said is my personal favorite movie from that director.

r7I realize that I haven’t really said much here about the design and composition of the movie, nor about the significance that it actually places on the titular color, but I think it rather goes without saying that the color, in all of its various hues is suffused throughout the film, and that its use is, of course masterful. Of course, much of the credit for that must go not only to Kieślowski, but to his cinematographer and frequent collaborator Piotr Sobociński who was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography for this film. (Kieślowski was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director for this movie, and he and co-screenwriter Krzysztof Piesiewicz were nominated for Best Original screenplay. The film was also nominated for, and in some cases won, many other awards that year.

Unfortunately, Red also turned out to be the last film that would be made by this master craftsman, as he died suddenly in 1996 at age 54 during open-heart surgery following a heart attack.

Here’s where I’d usually leave you with a trailer, but I really hate the one that Miramax put together for their DVD release, and the only other one I could find didn’t have English subtitles, so I think instead I’ll leave you with this short “Three Reasons” video put together by Criterion which I think will give you a pretty good feel for at least the atmosphere and visual design of the film.

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