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Copyright 2004




Three Colours: Blue, White and Red : Kieslowski's trilogy is mesmeric

THE renowned Polish film-maker, Krzysztof Kieslowski, once said that he was always trying to capture the soul. When he died prematurely in 1996, one did not know whether he could do what he had wanted to.

But, his cinema mesmerised millions the world over with its disarming simplicity and touching humility.His characters were wonderfully real, and Kieslowski's movie-making skills translated his works into great pieces of art, where every frame could be savoured with sheer joy.

The other day, when I sat through his last trilogy, "Three Colours: Blue, White and Red", they moved me as nothing else had, at least in a long time.

Kieslowski made these three films in the early 1990s, and despite having seen them a few times earlier, I felt a sense of almost pure ecstasy after watching "Blue, White and Red" in Chennai during February 2004.

The Polish master borrows the three colours of the French flag -- representing Liberty, Equality and Fraternity -- and shows how these could affect not just political and social life, but even one's very personal existence.

"Blue is liberty. Of course, it is equality too. And it can just easily be fraternity. But the movie, 'Three Colours: Blue', is about Liberty", says Kieslowski in his autobiography.

"Blue" begins with a terrible tragedy, but narrated and shot with such classy finesse that one cannot help but wonder why average Indian cinema is still so loud and painfully ugly.

Julie loses her composer husband and little daughter in a car accident.Julie has loads of money, no responsibilities any longer and finds herself absolutely free. It is liberty, all right.

However, the memories of her family torment her. She moves into a rented apartment and makes sure that there are no children around. She burns the unfinished musical work of her husband, in the hope of escaping from her past.

Kieslowski asks, "how far can we get from our feelings...Is love a prison...Or, is it freedom..." Julie finds that she can never free herself from emotional strings.

And, in the film, the great French actress, Juliette Binoche, helps Kieslowski through a series of soul-stirring nuances and expressions to lead his viewer towards what appears to be an important moment of reconciliation. Julie realises the vital link between the past and the present: it is only when she lets her husband's friend complete the unfinished musical notes (a copy of which turns up from an archive) and into her very intimate part of life that she begins to enjoy a complete sense of liberty.

Was Kieslowski's "Blue" a love story ? There is no answer in the autobiography. To me, it would seem to be one, and a hauntingly beautiful one at that, where the deeper and more sustaining emotions of love transcend the barriers of personal tragedy to the realm of something spiritual.

"Three Colours: White" is a far more implicit depiction of this human emotion, and Kieslowski guides his narrative to reveal a sense of "equality". We see the usual mortal failings of jealousy, deceit and revenge on this path.

This tale of a Polish hairdresser who falls in love with a French girl (Julie Delphy), and marries her only to find that he can no longer satisfy her sexually. She divorces him, but the man's affection for her is so intense that he vows to get her back. In what are sometimes humourous, sometimes tragic situations, the hairdresser, Karol, finally gets equal -- or more equal -- with her.

"Except that, while becoming more equal (There is a saying in Polish:There are those who are equal and those who are more equal. That is what used to be said during Communism, and I think it is still being said.) he falls into the trap which he has set for his former wife, and finds that he still loves her", Kieslowski avers in his book.

"White" ends with a poignant frame: we see Karol waiting below a prison window watching his former wife as she stands looking out. His eyes well up.

Kieslowski explains in his written work,"You have to see the third part of the trilogy, 'Red' to know that 'White' has a happy ending."

To quote him again, "I have got an increasingly strong feeling that all we really care about is ourselves. Even when we notice other people, we are still thinking of ourselves". This is the subject of "Three Colours: Red", Fraternity.

Here Kieslowski talks about a certain fraternity emerging between an elderly judge and a young woman, Valentine (played superbly by Irene Jacob). "She wants to think of others, but keeps thinking about others from her own point of view... Now the question arises: even when we give of ourselves, are we not doing so because we want to have a better opinion of ourselves ? It is something to which we will never know the answer. Philosophers have not found it in 2,000 years, and nobody will", Kieslowski contends.

Yet, I feel Kieslowski tries to seek an answer by interweaving the lives of these two people, the judge and Valentine. They seem ideal for each other, sadly though separated by the chasm of time, the difference in age. "They are as suited to each other as one half of an apple is to the other", Kieslowski adds.

Here, let me sign off with a personal observation. Kieslowski was one half of the fruit, its other half was cinema. He enriched this medium not just with his life, but with his spirit and soul as well.

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