Krzysztof Kieslowski’s ‘Three Colors’ trilogy

03Jan09

“Blue, liberty; White, equality; Red, fraternity… We looked very closely at these three ideas, how they functioned in everyday life, but from an individual’s point of view. These ideals are contradictory with human nature. When you deal with them practically, you do not know how to live with them. Do people really want liberty, equality, fraternity?”
– Writer/director Krzysztof Kieslowski

Three Colors trilogy
The Three Colors trilogy, the finale to Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski’s career, explores the political ideas represented by the colors of the French flag: liberty (Blue), equality (White), and fraternity (Red). Kieslowski and his writing partner Krzysztof Piesiewicz examine these ideals in often ambiguous and ironic ways that may not be apparent unless the viewer knows the films’ inspiration.

Kieslowski’s films are complicated, and I use that word with both positive and negative connotations. I find something new and rewarding each time I watch these films because Kieslowski leaves a lot for the audience to decide for itself. However, that same quality can make his films a little inaccessible, especially in the case of Blue. I first saw the trilogy in college when I was trying to develop a more pretentious film repertoire, and Three Colors fit that order perfectly. Yes, these films are a little high concept, yes, they feature “arty directorial flairs”, and, yes, they have subtitles. But these are powerful films with beautiful, rich palettes and stories that haven’t been recycled more than a dozen times by some Hollywood moneymaking machine.

I hadn’t watched these films in several years, but I felt like having my heart ripped out the other night, so I picked up Blue and then decided to watch the subsequent movies consecutively because I had never done that before. Viewing the films in this manner was an interesting experience but not a necessary one. Though called a trilogy, perhaps the word “cycle”, often used to refer to Kieslowski’s The Decalogue, best applies to the three films. Blue, White, and Red aren’t a trilogy like The Lord of the Rings is a trilogy. White does not pick up where Blue leaves off, and the characters mostly remain segregated in their respective movies. The three films do connect, though the connection does not become apparent until the very end of the third film. Each film very easily stands on its own with a different theme, a particular setting, and a unique tone, but every viewing underscores the power and importance of human connection and a feeling of hope emerges.

…[Kieslowski and Piesiewicz] have the very rare ability to dramatize their ideas rather than just talking about them. By making their points through the dramatic action of the story they gain the added power of allowing the audience to discover what’s really going on rather than being told. They do this with such dazzling skill, you never see the ideas coming and don’t realize until much later how profoundly they have reached your heart.
– Director Stanley Kubrick

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