And so Kieslowski’s THREE COLOURS trilogy draws to an end with what is many peoples favourite instalment. I’m torn, having watched each of the 3 films twice, as to which one leaves the biggest dent on my cinematic pleasure receptors. Each film has something completely independent of the other two but at the same time they are strongly linked by the most subtle, yet powerful of methods. This is what, for my mind, makes Kieslowski a Bergman of my generation. His seemingly effortless ability to create a cinema that is artistic without pretension, opinionated without cliché and beautiful without sentiment, elevates him above the vast majority of his peers.
Out of the three films, RED is the more complex in terms of storyline. We have a juxtaposing between 2 very different relationships that is hinged by the character of Joseph Kern (Jean-Louis Trintignant) who is an ex judge. His post retirement time is spent listening to the phone calls of those around him and from the solitude of his own prison, he is unknowingly involved in the lives of so many (he is never seen interacting with the outside world, other than when he is taken to court by the locals). Although the theme of RED is “fraternity”, and is probably the most easily recognised of the three, there are tangents exploring the effect that luck, or fate has on the existence of everyone.
Irene Jacob is superb as Valentine Dussaut who herself, is trapped in a telephone relationship. Her many conversations with her distant lover displays a connection of relative unrest, there is no tenderness, no affection. It is ironic that Valentine finds companionship with a man spying on others whose relationships are being conducted on the telephone.
The meeting of Valentine and Joseph is again, born of a lucky or more probably unlucky situation, she knocks over his dog. I have to say, the performance of the dog in this scene is superb. The way it lies limply in the road whimpering (granted, the whimpers could have been added in post) is incredibly life like.
The initial interactions between the 2 uncomfortable but they develop an understanding and connection that is deeply touching. Joseph has nothing other than the conversations he can never join in on, and Valentine has an overbearing lover in another country who can offer her nothing in the way of one to one affection. In each other they find a little of what’s missing in their lives. Completely honest performances make this coming together believable and gives the end of the picture a powerful climax.
Running alongside the story of Joseph and Valentine is that of Auguste and Karin. Auguste lives across the street from Valentine and their paths cross without any real personal interaction, Valentine notices he has left the headlights of his jeep on for instance. Karin runs a personal weather reporting call service which is listened to by Joseph. The subtleties of these connections are brought together in the last act of the picture but, never being one to spoil things, I’ll leave that for to find out for yourselves.
Below is the great scene that shows Valentine discovering Joseph’s secret pastime. There is a real uneasiness about this exchange which is a joy to watch…