Thursday, 31 January 2013

(4) Three Colours: White

Three Colours: White is the second film from the Krzysztof Kieślowski's Three Colour trilogy. You can read an introduction about the trilogy here and you can read about the first film of the trilogy Blue here.

Now we are moving from the first colour, blue, in the French flag to the second, white, where white stands for equality. As in Blue, also in White music has a significant role, you can listen to the part of the film's soundtrack here. Of course, before you continue to read this entry, please, take your time and watch the film, there are spoilers ahead.
After watching Three Colours: Blue, the emotionally deep and dramatic film, one would expect this dramatic tone to continue in the next part of the trilogy. Thus, it is quite surprising to discover that White is a dark comedy.

Three Colours: White is a fight for equality between a Pole, Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski), and his French wife, Dominique (Julie Delpy), who is filing for a divorce from Karol, since their marriage is not consummated. In the court room Dominique tells that she no longer loves Karol, which sends him off to his humiliating banishment. In order to gain back his status and equality with his now ex-wife, Karol goes back to Poland, where he through shady deals becomes wealthy and starts up his own business. It is easier to earn money than love. In order to get Dominique to come to Poland he fakes his death and leaves his money to her. Karol now sends her into banishment. 

Portrayal of White is similar to that of Blue, in a use of colour filters and lighting, however it is less expressionist, less artistic, White is more naturalistic, even simpler. However, Kieślowski's precise work with a camera and montage stays.
The film opens with a sequence: a suitcase on an airport conveyor belt, a man's feet walking on a pavement, then camera slowly reveals the man's face and then once again back to the suitcase.

The opening sequence.
Although at this moment the viewer has no idea how this man is related to the suitcase, Kieślowski portrays it as having significance, showing that there is a link between this suitcase and the man. Indeed, as it is revealed later on in the film, the suitcase scene is flash forward in time, in the man's future, he will be travelling in this suitcase.
The film then reveals that Karol is in front of a court house and while standing there, "The streak of pigeon droppings (the first flash of white) that fall on Karol's suit as he stands on the court steps introduces the theme of humiliation - sexual, economic, social and physical - which will weave throughout the film." (The 'Three Colours' Trilogy)
Karol is being sued for a divorce, because their marriage is unconsummated - indicating Karol's sexual humiliation. Furthermore, Karol argues that in the court he is unequal, because he doesn't speak fluent French. He tries to explain, that before their marriage and moving to France, they hadn't any sexual problems, that problems started after they got married and moved to France. He claims that all he needs is some time, and that love is still there. Kieślowski then inserts a flashback of their wedding day, from Karol's point of view, where he sees Dominique from the back walking in her white dress out of the church and then turning around smiling. 

Karol remembering their wedding day.
Dreamlike white tone of the scene suggests that it might be only Karol's fantasy, especially, when afterwards Dominique claims that she doesn't love him anymore. Thus, Kieślowski looks at the theme of love differently than in Blue, where "Love is patient, love is kind. It bears all things, it hopes all things. Love never fails.(The 'Three Colours' Trilogy) In White Kieślowski shows that love can be cruel, painful, humiliating or  even comic.
Karol's humiliation continues, after the court Dominique leaves his suitcase, eventually he loses his bank card,  and after going into the bank he finds out that his account is frozen by Dominique, a clerk in the bank then cuts his card in front of Karol. Geoff Andrew suggests that in this scene "Karol's wincing expression clearly points to the act's castratory connotations." (The 'Three Colours' Trilogy) Slowly and involuntary Karol loses all his possessions, everything that he once was, whereas in Blue that was Julie's aim, which she didn't succeed to reach.
Later on Karol is so observed with himself, that he doesn't even think of helping a man to deposit a bottle in the bottle bank, a similar scene, as mentioned in the previous post, was in Blue.
After wandering around streets, Karol discovers that he has keys for Dominique's hairdressing salon, he decides to spend the night there. When Dominique finds him there in the morning and Karol once again unsuccessfully tries to make love to her, she threatens him and accuses that he never understood anything about their love.

In the metro Karol meets a fellow Pole Mikolaj, they share a drink and later on Karol wants to show him Dominique, so they go to look at her through the window, they see her silhouette and then a man's silhouette, out of despair Karol calls her from a pay phone, once again he suffers a humiliation, she makes him listen to her moaning. Now Karol is left with a 2 franc coin and a stolen white plaster bust of a woman. Thus, he agrees to go back to Poland with Mikolaj, but in his own humiliating way. Here we return to the suitcase from the opening sequence, Karol travels back to his homeland in a suitcase with his 2 franc coin and a plaster bust.

A white plaster bust of a woman.
After returning home in Poland, he goes back to his brother's place. Slowly he starts up his own money business, he needs to learn how to survive in the new Poland, "a place of corruption, violence, greed and dishonesty." (The 'Three Colours' Trilogy) Besides all that, Karol still hopes that he can renew his relationship with Dominique, he starts to learn French and trains kissing the white bust as a comic form of practice.
Dominique doesn't return his calls, therefore Karol decides to fake his death. Symbolically, he throws last remains of his past - a 2 franc coin - in the coffin. In his will Karol leaves everything to Dominique, so she would come to Poland. After the funeral, Karol surprises Dominique. Karol reassures her that he is not a ghost and they make love. At the moment of  her orgasm screen turns blindingly white, black and then it shows both of them lying in the bed.

Karol: "You moaned even louder than on the phone." Dominique: "Yes."
Finally, Karol has reached his equality, the end of his humiliating banishment. As suggested by Andrew, Karol highlights Kieślowski's thesis that "people don't want equality, they just want to be more 'equal' than others." (The 'Three Colours' Trilogy) Therefore, now Karol needs to make Dominique suffer as he did. He leaves her, and soon the police arrives to take her away, for she is accused of his murder. Dominique is put in prison, where in the night Karol sneaks in to once again look at her through a window. This time Dominique is not embraced by other man, this time she is showing, that once this is over, she is hoping that they can start afresh, for their love is not lost. Karol is in tears and smiling. Kieślowski leaves a hope for their love. Now that equality is attained, their love might be restored as well, someday. There is a hope.

Their hope.
In White, love is not healing or forgiving as it was in Blue, quite opposite, it is shown that love can be selfish, cruel and can embrace vengeance. Only at the end Karol and Dominique recognise their love, they understandd that "genuine love requires time and mutual understanding in order to develop." (The 'Three Colours' Trilogy)
Three colours: White is a ticklish dark comedy, an ironical discussion of love and equality. Emotionally it is not as intense as Blue or Red, however, as marked by Andrew it is "probably quite necessary drop in emotional intensity between the more draining first and third stories; it is the lull before the final storm." (The 'Three Colours' Trilogy) In my opinion, it is the weakest one out of three, although it balances well between being too comical or too emotional or too bitter, but it still misses the depth of Blue and Red.

Here, for your enjoyment, is a short and equally frank interview with Julie Delpy, where she explains the last scene in Three Colours: White.

Friday, 25 January 2013

(3) Three Colours: Blue

In the previous post I gave a brief introduction about the Three Colours trilogy. Three Colours: Blue is the first film of the Kieślowski's admirable trilogy, Blue discusses liberty, a search for personal freedom. Since music is a significant form of expression in the film, I would suggest to open its soundtrack here, before you continue with reading, moreover, make sure to watch the film before you read further.
When Julie (Juliette Binochi) loses her husband Patrice, a famous French composer, and her daughter Anna in a car crash, she starts her personal search for freedom in a form of a self-denial. Julia gets rid of all of her belongings, acquaintances, memories, responsibilities, anything that ties her to the life she had with her husband and daughter, anything that ties her to the past. However, her husbands unfinished concerto for Unification of Europe drags her back to the past and reality, she is the only one who can finish it. Furthermore Julia finds out that her husband had a mistress, who now is pregnant. Despite all her persistence, she understands that it is impossible to lock herself away from everyone. 

Although at the end 1980s Julliette Binochi had every opportunity to abandon Europe's cinema and head off to Hollywood, especially after receiving offers from Spielberg and other notable directors, she declined and stayed in Europe. Moreover, in 1993 she accepted Kieślowski's offer to work on Three Colours: Blue. Without Binochi in the role of Julie the film would have been completely different, Kieślowski himself has said, that it is easier to write a role with a certain actor in mind, because you know his or her abilities. Binoche's performance in Blue is deep and strong, which strengthens the film's emotional power.

The film opens with a sequence of close ups: showing a car speeding through the blue night, followed by a shot, where Anna is holding a blue candy wrapper, and then a sequence continues with a close up on the brake cable from which fluid is dripping, suggesting that an accident is imminent.

The opening sequence.
The silence of this scene is intense, that when the car hits the tree the loud noise comes like a shock penetrating the viewer. Kieślowski's precise use of sound creates a rhythm and a tone to the film. The sound is accompanied with the colour blue, which becomes a symbol of loneliness, solitude, coldness and melancholy. 
In all three films, but especially in Blue Kieślowski uses camera as a sentient instrument. Therefore the viewer has ability to look at the film through the eyes of characters, the viewer is let into their world and the viewer can feel their emotions. Kieślowski uses close ups to describe Julie's emotions and inner world, to make the viewer look into the protagonist's mind, as it is done in the next scene after the opening sequence. To both, the viewer and Julie, it is revealed that Anna and Patrice both died in the car crash. The viewer perceives Julie's emotions through this extreme close up of her eye with a doctor's reflection in it. There is no use of explanatory 'thoughts' or voice over narration or dialogue. All the sensations are captured in the most intimate and extreme close up imaginable - the human eye.

Extreme close up of Julie's eye.
Thus, Kieślowski uses camera to create the film's emotions, so that the viewer would continually be aware of Julie's state of mind.
After Julie learns about her husband and daughter's death, she starts her journey for personal freedom. After an unsuccessful suicide attempt in the hospital, Julie starts to reconstruct her life through complete self-denial, so her "new" life would be free of pain, memories, relationships and responsibilities. However, already in the hospital she is visited by the  past, that is, she hears a part of the concerto, that her husband or she was composing to commemorate Unification of Europe. When this music starts to play the colour blue emerges. Thus, blue becomes a symbol of her solitude. Throughout the film the past keeps haunting Julie and intrudes on her solitude. However, she is so caught up in her isolated world that she doesn't notice an old lady struggling to deposit a bottle in a bottle bank. The scene echoed also in the next two films of the trilogy, thus it becomes one out of many links between all three. Another example being a scene in the court house, where the two protagonists from White appears. The only thing, that Julie keeps as a reminder of the past is the blue chandelier from the blue room.

Julie in the blue room with the blue chandelier.
While sitting in the coffee shop she hears a street musician playing music similar or almost the same to that which she composed with her husband. Once again, Kieślowski uses close up to show the passing of time - by a movement of shadow. 

Time is passing.
Triggered by music, people and memories Julie ultimately starts to reconcile with her past and recognises her needs, emotions and humanity. First off, she visits her mother in a nursery home, but leaves with no communication. Afterwards, she visits Olivier. Thus, Julie doesn't suppress her urge to compose and decides to help Olivier to finish the concerto.

Julie composes again.
To settle everything with her past, she gives her old house to Patrice's mistress and expresses her wish that the baby would be named after Patrice. Julie now is ready to accept her humanity and Olivier's love. 
Kieślowski shows that personal freedom is impossible and Three Colours: Blue celebrates Julie's acceptance that she needs love and other people, after all as Kieślowski said, "'Love is a much more human emotion than the desire for freedom.'" (The 'Three Colours' Trilogy)
Consequently, Julia now is ready to live again and face her past and future, thus in a way she has achieved some kind of freedom. She finally is free to grieve and accept love.

In the same way the film started it ends - a non-narrative shot sequence with all the major characters, the camera slowly moves from one image to the other and we finally hear the whole chorus of the concerto.
Though I speak with the tongue of angels, if I have not love, I am become as hollow brass. Though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have enough faith to move the mightiest mountains, if I have not love, I am nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It bears all things, it hopes all things. Love never fails. For prophecies shall fail, tongues shall cease, knowledge will wither away. And now shall abide faith, hope and love; but the greatest of these is love. (The 'Three Colours' Trilogy)
The final sequence: liberty and love.
Three Colours: Blue is the emotionally deep study of loss, grief, solitude and liberty. The film is shot, scored, scripted and performed with an admirable sensitivity. Out of all three films, Blue is the most dramatic, and my personal favorite.

For those who are amazed by Kieślowski's trilogy as I am, below is his cinema lesson on Blue, where he explains his obsession with close ups and why they are so important, as well as his idea of unity. Enjoy the words of true and pure talent!

Sunday, 13 January 2013

(2) Introduction: Three Colours: Blue/White/Red

In the next three posts I intend to look at the Krzysztof Kieślowski's (1941-1996) Three Colours Blue/White/Red trilogy. Before I do that, I would like to give you a short introduction to the trilogy.

Kieślowski was a Polish film director, who I like to say respected the viewer, saw the viewer as someone, who is allowed to think and relate to the film in his own way rather than the director's pin pointed way. Cinema as any other form of art works in a very subjective way. Kieślowski himself said: "The audiences I like most are those who say that the film's about them, or those who say that it meant something to them, those for whom the film changed something" (Kieślowski on  Kieślowski). Therefore, in the next three posts I will try to find my interpretation of these films, I will attempt to understand what they changed for me. It will be a purely subjective way to reflect upon these three films and to fathom how these films tell their story to me.

For the first time I watched the trilogy during the last summer, when my partner Mike brought all the three films home and said, that I need to see them, that I will enjoy them. He was right. Soon after I came across BFI published book The 'Three Colours' Trilogy by Geoff Andrew, which is his subjective way of approaching films. Andrew writes that with the Three Colours trilogy  Kieślowski's "search for new, more precise ways to explore people's inner lives ... films that concerned the worlds of intuition and of the intellect" (The 'Three Colours' Trilogy). The main idea for the trilogy to Kieślowski was given by a lawyer and a screenwriter Krzysztof Piesiewicz, who wanted to examine how the ideals of the French revolution work in the present, ideals being - liberty, equality, fraternity. However, Kieślowski's intention was not to portray these ideals on a global level, but directly opposite, on a personal level,
"to look at freedom from a personal aspect, which is more universal. If you were to speak to, say, Bosnians or Croatians about their idea of political freedom, they'd contradict each other, whereas they'd probably have the same idea of personal freedom, or of love. There are so many things that separate people around the world today that one ought perhaps to look for factors that unite people ... just to state that such things exist." (The 'Three Colours' Trilogy)
Besides Kieślowski's collaboration with Piesiewicz, another important collaboration for the trilogy was with the composer Zbigniew Preisner, whose scores would directly help to tell the story of Blue and also play an important role in White and Red, in order to set the mood of the film, build the meaning and the structure of the films and the trilogy. The trilogy was a French-Polish-Swiss production, so Kieślowski decided to film the trilogy in three different locations: Blue - France, White - Poland, Red - Switzerland. Furthermore, Kieślowski premiered all three films in the major festivals: "Blue in September 1993 at Venice, White in February 1994 at Berlin and, finally, Red  in May 1994 at Cannes." (The 'Three Colours' Trilogy). Despite the complexity of the trilogy, Kieślowski created his 'symphony' quickly, from conception to completion it took about two and a half years. 

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

(1) A question for the darkest hour of the night.

Dear readers,

hope you are all doing well. I would like to introduce you to my blog, which, hopefully, one step at a time will become a place where I review or let you know about moving pictures and books, which I have seen or read or will do so.

A couple of days ago I came across Rainer Maria Rilke's "Letters to a Young Poet" read by Dennis Hopper. I took his advise and I gave it a thought concluding, that I have been writing since I learnt how to do it, I hid my notebooks from my brother and sisters, and, of course, mom and dad, I still hide them, like a mouse hides its cheese in a tiny little cave. 

I asked the question, whether writing for me is a necessity, after waking up from a nightmare, where I was walking around with my head chopped off and getting madder and madder by every bend I needed to make to get somewhere, the answer was... Yes. 

Let's keep our fingers crossed that this will be a one fantastic experience for you and me! 

Yours truly,