- Kieslowski’s Three Colours: White is always going to be sandwiched between Blue and Red and probably for that reason it is unfairly overlooked. I’m guilty of this, too- and was flat wrong with my prior assessment.
- It is the “equality” portion of the liberty/equality/fraternity color trilogy from the great master who liked arranging his works in the context of larger themes like that (including the 10 commandments and prior to his death was getting tor ruminate on a Heaven/Purgatory/Hell trilogy). White feels like the least on-the-nose of the three films in this trilogy—“equality” seems like a stretch. It is worth noting that Juliette Binoche shows up at the 4 minute mark. She walks into the wrong courtroom right when the word “equality” is being used.
- This is the lightest of the three films- Kieslowski’s comedy- but this isn’t Step Brothers or Bananas– this is a black comedy- closer to A Serious Man or Phantom Thread
- Zbigniew Zamachowski plays Karol Karol. He has a brother Jerzy Stuhr (who played his brother in Dekalog 10), a partner, but this is really his story about his failed marriage with Julie Delpy’s (year prior to Before Sunrise) Dominique. The movie starts with their divorce. It is a story of his love/fixation and revenge.
- We get the old person putting the bottle in the recycling again like Blue – Binoche does nothing in Blue, here Karol looks, and looks concerns, but ultimately does nothing as well. I think this also shows that these three actions are happening at the same time in Paris in all three films.
- Instead of the ornament in Blue the reoccurring object here is a bust (looks like plaster) that comes up again and again as a reoccurring motif. It serves Kieslowski’s purpose (it is white of course) of showing Karol’s fixation and preoccupation with Dominique even when she’s physically absent from most of the film
- It is a film about impotence (both sexually and power for the relationship)
- There is a stunning white-filtered scene early in the film. It is their wedding day (via flashback). This is mirrored later with a two minute prolonged scene (again through these gorgeous whiteout lighting/décor and then we get a fade to white). There is another fade to quite as Karol finally achieves his goal of having Dominque in bed (they are getting divorced because he can’t have sex after their marriage)—Kieslowski fades to white after her orgasm
- After the divorce he goes back to home to Poland in a suitcase, gets literally dumped into a pile of waste (complete with white seagulls and white garbage) and, hilariously says something akin to “it is good to be home” (as he is back in Poland after being in Paris). It is then like a little gangster movie as he goes from rags to riches—all with revenge/love at the front of his mind (depending on how you interpret it on the film)
- A triumph of location shooting and location design. The white just isn’t in the objects, costume décor, lighting filters— but the big hallway at the courthouse, the train station—gorgeous set pieces—and then the subway with white lights here. A great shot on the ice as well. The shot of the white cloudy sky (reflecting off the snow) would make for a great trio with the green sky church on a hill landscape in Veronique and the post-crash sky in Blue
- Kieslowski uses form multiple times with mirroring shots/sequences. One is the final shot—Karol with binoculars looking at Delpy’s character (the location chance of the final shot is part of the sick joke)- this almost exact scene happened earlier as well. There’s also two shots of Delpy at the door in the same pose- clearly still thinking about Karol. The wedding flashback happens twice as well
- It is an odd love story, part black comedy- I mentioned Phantom Thread before and I think that fits. There’s torture/pain/love here.
- A Must-See film
Interesting review, i’m glad, is Three Colors the best trilogy ever?
I know they will say “the godfather” immediately, but these films are much more balanced, here there is no abysmal fall from 2 to 3
@Aldo- Yeah tough to top those first two Godfathers but you’re right- the balance seems better here. The apartment trilogy from Polanski is fresh in my memory and would be right there. LOTR of course. The first Star Wars 77, 80 and 83. I did the Roy Andersson “Living” trilogy as well earlier this year and was blown away.
Forgot Linklater’s Before Trilogy, Nolan’s Batman, Eastwood/Leone’s trilogy. Some of these more official than others in terms of trilogies. Lots of good choices.
I would add the Bergman trilogy, i don’t know what it’s called (Through a Glass Darkly, Winter light and the silence)
I will take the opportunity to ask here, i had asked before but you did not answer me, you are sure that Through a Glass Darkly is a simple “Recommend”? I have yet to see it, but i was quite impressed with the other 2 but i am discouraged to see that it is only “R”
@Aldo- great call to include it. Sorry I didn’t answer before. It has been ages since I’ve seen Glass Darkly. I’m anxious to see it again. I wouldn’t let my “R” dissuade you. Honestly with any director as great as Bergman- I would encourage you to see them all– multiple times. But I understand sometimes it is about prioritization
@Aldo and Drake – hey, I thought of hopping in about Through a Glass Darkly, because it is a film that puzzles me. I think it doesn’t really live up to its reputation. I don’t know if it would be an R, because I’d say it may belong to 1961’s top 10 (quite a strong year I’d say). But I was expecting something a little more balanced when beginning to watch it. I don’t know if I did it justice and maybe I need a second viewing. Harriet Andersson is rivetting and there are some brilliant scenes throughout the film as she gets in touch with the devine or her insanity or both (they seem closely intertwined). But overall I didn’t think it was a landmark movie, and it pales in comparison with other Bergman films. Persona, Fanny and Alexander, Cries and Whispers (it needs to be mentioned more), the Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries – these movies blow you away and Through a Glass Darkly is not exactly there. I thought the Passion of Anna was much better and it isn’t nearly as appreciated. And I don’t think it’s the best one in the trilogy either.
@Georg- appreciate your insight here. As I said it has been awhile, so my confidence isn’t as high as something I’ve seen in the last five years, but I was not surprised to see it wasn’t one of the 13 (wow) Bergman films in the TSPDT top 1000
I think that’s a wonderful overview of the film. White is overdue. It isn’t as good as the other two and that’s exactly why it’s not as highly esteemed but it is objectively a great film on its own and perhaps the most layered of the three. There are some gorgeous shots here, the bust, the wedding flashback, the white sky – all beautiful, great of you to notice. But it is not as visually consistent or at least that is the impression I got.
It is very well made. The narrative becomes a little weak at one point and on but there are glimpses of cinematic genius (as there are more or less in every Kieslowski film) that really make it worthwhile. The actor playing Karol (whose name I find myself unable to spell) and Deply are both great here, though obviously considering the weight of each role and the fact that Karol is our vehicle through the story, it is more of an achievement for the former.
The theme of equality to me is better perceived as applying to the power play in the main character’s relationship with his wife. He’s not in control and it appears that his whole endeavour of becoming rich aims at his exacting revenge on Dominique and getting hold of their relationship. I do think it’s a revenge tale and it has more to do with fixation rather than love. It’s all about fixation in fact and I’d safely say that she is also fixated on him in perhaps a different way than he is on her.
Flying pigeons seem to be a recurring theme here as far as I remember and their role is also up to interpretation. I believe White is -as is Blue- a journey through the character’s experience. Despite the cinematic bliss that are the colour palettes in the trilogy, they go beyond their aesthetic aspect – I find they show subjectivity and perception.
The final scene, with him looking through the binoculars and her in prison – it clearly stands for the psychodynamic status quo of their relationship. She is imprisoned, he is in control and has now taken revenge. They are both hurt by what their choices have amounted to. However they remain in love (or obsessed) with one another and we get the idea that this is a never ending cycle. I was very pleasantly impressed by this film.
@Georg- great work here yet again! and I agree with your take on the equality theme- “The theme of equality to me is better perceived as applying to the power play in the main character’s relationship with his wife”
Hey, Drake! I just realized you did a Kieślowski study last year. That’s fantastic. Red is my favorite film of all time. Do you still think Blue is better?
I think I should revisit The Double Life of Veronique because I didn’t think it was much more than a MS during my first viewing, but your MP rating intrigues me.
Ah, too many movies to watch… what to do, what to do.
@Pedro- I certainly enjoyed my Kieslowski study last year. I could encourage you to revisit Veronique for sure. I would still have Blue slightly ahead of Red but they’re virtually tied. The real revelation for me was White (I was flat wrong and didn’t think much of it prior to last year), Veronique, and A Short Film About Killing. In fact, I think that may be Kieslowski’s finest.
Incredible. Thanks. Just saw The Scar but wasn’t very impressed. It seems like his 70s/early-80s wasn’t too great, but I’m excited nonetheless.
[…] Three Colours: White – Kieslowski […]
Also what do you think of Julie Delpy’s performance in Three Colors: White? Is it one of the best of the year? I thought she was excellent.
@MASH- I think Zbigniew Zamachowski gives one of the best performances of the year- but I have Delpy’s work on a tier or two below