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.

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