Wednesday, 20 February 2013

(5) Three Colours: Red

Just before I start to discuss the film, I would like to note that Red stars the charming and fascinating Jean-Louis Trintignant, who also is a protagonist in the Oscar nominated film Amour, directed by Michael Haneke. I highly recommend this film, it shows the art of cinema at its highest point, an intelligent, heartbreaking and warm film.

Back to the trilogy, we have reached not only the last film from the Krzysztof Kieślowski's trilogy, but also the last film directed by the great director: Three Colours: Red. If you missed last posts, you can read a short introduction about the trilogy here, and you can read about the first two films of the trilogy: Blue here and White here. Before you carry on with reading, please, take your time and watch Three Colours: Red and remember, that it is important that you have seen the previous two films as well.
To give you a bit of atmosphere of Red, you can find the last song of the film's soundtrack here.

Blue - liberty, white - equality, red - fraternity. Kieślowski looks at the themes and the ideals in the trilogy from "a personal aspect, which is more universal" (The 'Three Colours' Trilogy), thus despite the fact that the trilogy are based on French national motto, its themes are universal, not unique to France. Red tackles the last part of the French motto - fraternity. As within the previous films, it does not tackle the theme of fraternity directly, it starts of by looking at the theme of privacy. Kieślowski has said that:
Red is my most personal film, I think. It reflects not only my way of thinking about life, but about cinema: that film can come just that little bit closer to literature than one would imagine. It's a bit like one of those car commercials you see on television; it seems so small - there's no action - and yet it's so large inside. There are so many layers there you can find if you want. (The 'Three Colours' Trilogy)
I must agree with the director here, Red offers so many layers and stories, nevertheless with extreme precision it links together all three films, making the audience think retrospectively. 

Three Colours: Red is a story of communication, privacy and, of course, fraternity. The film follows the main protagonist Valentine (Irene Jacob), who is a student and a part-time model in Geneva and the development of her communication with a retired judge Joseph Kern (Jean-Louis Trintignant).
The film's opening sequence shows a hand dialing a phone number and then the camera follows this call by following the lead to the plug socket, where the tempo of the film increases, and the camera traces the cables, that go underground and beneath the sea and then a flashing red light appears, which indicates that the line is busy.

The opening sequence.
Immediately the opening sequence shows that "the film is to be an audacious and original exploration of the hidden forces that affect communication between individuals in the modern world." (The 'Three Colours' Trilogy) Camera then cuts to Auguste (Jean-Pierre Lorit), a law student, who lives in the opposite house of Valentine's and he owes a red jeep. The viewer once again hears a ringing phone and the camera moves into Valentine's apartment through a window (echoes of White, when Karol was watching at Dominique through a window). The viewer learns that it is Michel, Valentine's boyfriend, who the viewer never sees throughout the film. Michel has just returned to England after being in Poland, where he got robbed (again echoes of White). Michel interrogates Valentine, being jealous and aggressive, even though Valentine says that, because she felt so lonely she slept with his red jacket. While the conversation continues, the camera cuts back to Auguste, who is calling to his girlfriend. In the first 3 minutes it is already a third phone call, it is the modern world's way of communication.
Valentine is a model for a chewing gum advertisement, for which the slogan is "A breath of life", she poses in front of a red drape, her photo then becomes a symbol of the film, Valentine returns Kern's "breath of life".

A breath of life.
Later in the evening Valentine inadvertently passes Auguste, who drops his laws books on the pedestrian crossing, one of his books falls open at the exact page from which he will later get his exam question. The same thing happened with Kern, before his exam. Kieślowski draws parallels between Kern's life and Auguste, Kern's younger counterpart.
Kieślowski slowly starts to interconnect the characters from all three films from the trilogy. Since you have all seen the film I am not going into the details of the story, I will just mark, in my opinion, the most important points of the film, parts which meant the most for me.
Throughout the film Valentine inadvertently passes Auguste, she almost meets him at the bowling hall, in the record store, where they both are listening to Van den Budenmayer, echoes Blue. Valentine and August are both interlinked in the film in so many layers and yet, they aren't aware of each other.
In the scene after the fashion show, when the storm just starts, Kern tells Valentine about his past, his love, that "Maybe you're [Valentine] the woman I never met." Once again Kieślowski draws parallels between Kern and Auguste, because Valentine will be the woman which Auguste will meet, or so it is hinted at the end of the film. Kern also reveals, that he caught his girlfriend making love with another man. Moreover, just before the fashion show, Auguste founds his girlfriend making love with another man, once again echoes of White, Karol saw Dominique making love with another man through the window, however Auguste's view is more revealing than Karol's.

Through the window.
After Kern and Valentine say their farewells, Valentine notices that an old woman is struggling to deposit a bottle in the bottle bank and she goes to help her, indicating her selflessness. In Blue and White, Julie and Karol accordingly were both too self-occupied and caught up with themselves that they didn't notice, how an old lady, in Blue, or an old man, in White, was struggling to deposit a bottle. Could it be a reference, to that inevitable day, when they will be in the same situation - struggling with such a trivial thing as a bottle bank?

White, Blue, Red - the bottle bank scenes.
Then we see how Valentine boards a ferry, after her also Auguste and his dog boards, however they are both directed to different decks. For the viewer it might seem that they should recognise each other, they are practically neighbours, Valentine passed Auguste in her car, they almost met in the bowling hall, they both at the same time listened to a Van den Budenmayer CD, despite all these coincidences Valentine hasn't noticed Auguste and Auguste has only once seen her on the billboard poster. They don't meet each other, just yet.
Meanwhile, in Geneva, a thunderstorm starts, therefore Valentine's billboard poster - "A breath of life" - needs to be removed, a symbol that Valentine has returned Kern's breath of life, that he is free to live once again.
The next morning Kern reads about a ferry disaster in the English Channel, after turning on the news, he learns that besides the couple (Auguste's ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend), who were yachting in the English channel, the storm has taken 1400, only 7 survivors on the ferry: Julie Vignon, the widow of a French composer, an English citizen and barman on the ferry Stefan Killan, Karol Karol, a Polish businessman, a French citizen Dominique Vidal, Frenchman Olivier and two Swiss citizens: Auguste, a judge, and a model Valentine. Kern smiles to himself when he sees Auguste and Valentine together, and the film fades out with the shot of Valentine, after being saved from the ferry disaster, a shot which is almost identical to her "sad" profile on the billboard poster.

Six of the trilogy's main characters are brought together in the last scene.
Kieślowski explained the idea of the last scene: "... a few people are saved from the ferry, so let's see who they are, how they live, and perhaps even find out why they were on the ferry." (The 'Three Colours' Trilogy) I think it is an amazing way how to conclude the story, the trilogy makes you sympathise with the characters before the culmination of the trilogy, the ferry disaster. It makes the viewer feel part of the action, because as the viewer you already know who they are and why they are there.
Although the ending of the film might seem happy, because Valentine and Auguste are finally brought together and the viewer sees that also Julie and Olivier, Karol and Dominique are together. However, 1400 passengers and even Auguste's dog died in the ferry disaster. As for the viewer, 
what makes the conclusion emotionally satisfying is the compassion extended, not only by Kern to Valentine and a reflection of his younger self, but by Kieślowski hismelf to the major characters of the enitire trilogy. Seeing the protagonists of Blue and White take their place as survivors alongside those of Red, we are not only given hope regarding their (hitherto ambiguous) futures, but we may somehow feel that we the audience have been rewarded by Kieślowski for taking a sympathetic interest in their fates. (The 'Three Colours' Trilogy)
The colour red in the film is reflected in a car, a jacket, a dog leash, bowling balls, a rocking chair, a sweater, a drape, stop lights, it is a colour of passion, danger and in this case it is a colour of fraternity and as suggested by Geoff Andrew, most importantly, it is a colour of the life force.

Kieślowski explains the plot point and the importance of some scenes in Three Colours: Red.

To conclude, as Kieślowski put it:
All my films are about individuals who can't quite find their bearings, who don't quite know how to live ... and are desperately looking.  (The 'Three Colours' Trilogy)