Three Colours: Red

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Three Colours: Red
Three Colors-Red.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byKrzysztof Kieślowski
Produced byMarin Karmitz
Written by
Music byZbigniew Preisner
CinematographyPiotr Sobociński
Edited byJacques Witta
Distributed by
  • MK2 Diffusion (France)
  • Rialto Film (Switzerland)
Release date
  • 12 May 1994 (1994-05-12) (Cannes)
  • 27 May 1994 (1994-05-27) (Poland)
  • 31 August 1994 (1994-08-31) (Switzerland)
  • 14 September 1994 (1994-09-14) (France)
Running time
99 minutes
  • France
  • Poland
  • Switzerland
Box office$3.5 million

Three Colours: Red (French: Trois couleurs: Rouge, Polish: Trzy kolory. Czerwony) is a 1994 romantic mystery film co-written, produced and directed by Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieślowski. It is the final installment of the Three Colours trilogy, which examines the French Revolutionary ideals; it is preceded by Blue and White. Kieślowski had announced that this would be his final film,[1] which proved true with the director's sudden death in 1996. Red is about fraternity, which it examines by showing characters whose lives gradually become closely interconnected, with bonds forming between two characters who appear to have little in common.

Red was released to universal critical acclaim, and was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Director for Kieślowski. It was also selected as the Swiss entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 67th Academy Awards, but was disqualified for not being a majority-Swiss production.[2]


Valentine Dussaut (Irene Jacob) studies at University of Geneva and works as a part-time model. She regularly attends ballet classes. She calls her possessive boyfriend in London and plans to meet him. During her part-time job as a model, she poses for a chewing-gum campaign and the photo selected is one of her looking very sad. While walking back home, Auguste (Jean-Pierre Lorit), a student neighbour of Valentine's, drops his textbooks and one book falls open at a particular chapter of the Criminal Code, which he notes. Driving back to her apartment, Valentine is distracted and accidentally hits a Malinois dog. She tracks down the owner, a retired judge, Joseph Kern (Jean-Louis Trintignant), who seems unconcerned. Valentine takes the dog, Rita, to a veterinarian, where she learns that the dog is pregnant. She overcomes the sexual advances made by the ad company's photographer. Later, money is delivered to her apartment from an unnamed sender.

Out for a walk the next day, Rita leads Valentine back to Kern's house. He says she should keep the dog after confirming that he sent the money for the expenses. She returns the extra amount to Kern after meeting the vet's expenses. Valentine hears that Kern is eavesdropping on a male neighbour's sexual telephone conversation with his male lover. She tries to convey to him her concerns about respecting the privacy of his neighbour. The judge challenges Valentine to reveal the eavesdropping to the neighbour. She goes to do so but is horrified to see the man's young daughter on the telephone extension, listening to the same conversation. Upon her return, Kern tells her that their actions of telling or not telling, and spying or not spying make no difference to the eventual outcome of other people's lives. As the conversation goes on, Valentine tells that her brother was fathered by someone other than her biological father. Before leaving, Valentine also hears a conversation between Auguste and his girlfriend, Karin (Frederique Feder), neither of whom she has met. Auguste passes his exam to become a judge and credits his success to the dropped textbook.

That evening, Kern writes a series of letters to his neighbours and the court confessing his spying activities, and the community files a class action. Later, at the law courts, Kern sees Karin flirting with another man. When Valentine confronts Kern, he says it was her feeling of disgust that prompted him to confess. They discuss the nature of altruism and Valentine asks if he has ever loved or been loved. Kern evades the question and instead recounts a case in which he mistakenly acquitted a sailor, only to see him live a life free of crime.

Auguste has been unable to reach Karin by telephone since his graduation so he drives to her flat and climbs up the building. Through the window, he sees her having sex with another man and leaves, distraught. He takes his grief out on his dog and at one stage abandons him at a lamppost. On Karin's personalised weather information service she is predicting that the weather around the UK will be perfect. She is happy about this as she is about to sail there herself soon (with her new boyfriend who owns a yacht).

The day before Valentine leaves for England, she invites Kern to her fashion show. Stormy weather is gathering and Kern seems to sense that Valentine will soon be in danger from it. After the show their conversation turns again to Kern's doomed love life. His answer betrays echoes of Auguste's recent life, including the infidelity and the dropped textbook. He says that the girl he loved died in an accident after he followed her across the English Channel. He also says that his last case as a judge pitted him against his ex-girlfriend's lover. By co-incidence, Auguste's first case as a judge is Kern's trial. Kern tells Valentine in more detail about a dream he had about her. In the dream, she is 50 years old and happy and with a man she loves. As they say goodbye, Kern and Valentine plan to meet again in three weeks' time when Kern will give her one of Rita's puppies.

Finally, Valentine boards the ferry to England. We also see Auguste on the ferry, reunited with his dog. Kern is choosing the puppy he will give to Valentine on her return when he hears disastrous news; the storm has hit the English Channel and both the ferry and the yacht have sunk. Kern fears the worst, only seven survivors are pulled from the ferry. We see six of them in freeze-frame: Julie and Olivier from Blue, Karol and Dominique from White, Auguste (without his dog) and finally Valentine. Auguste and Valentine are looking into each other's eyes, inviting the viewer to believe this is the man from Kern's dream, with whom she will find happiness. The final image replicates the iconic ad poster of Valentine, but this time with real emotion showing on her face.


  • Irène Jacob as Valentine Dussaut
  • Jean-Louis Trintignant as Joseph Kern
  • Jean-Pierre Lorit as Auguste Bruner
  • Frederique Feder as Karin
  • Samuel Le Bihan as Le photographe (photographer)
  • Marion Stalens as Le vétérinaire (Veterinary surgeon)
  • Teco Celio as Le barman (barman)
  • Bernard Escalon as Le disquaire (record dealer)
  • Jean Schlegel as Le voisin (neighbour)
  • Roland Carey as Le trafiquant (drug dealer)


Kieslowski stated that Red was the most difficult film of the trilogy to write: "I've got everything I need to put across what I want to say, which is really quite complicated. Therefore, if the idea I've got in mind doesn't come across, it meant that either film is too primitive a medium to support such a construction or that all of us put together haven't got enough talent for it."[3] The main theme of the score, "Bolero", was written before any filming took place. According to the filmmakers, it was meant to symbolize events that occur repeatedly in people's lives.[4]


As in the previous two films, a single color dominates: numerous objects in the film are bright red, including the huge advertising banner featuring Valentine's facial profile. Several images recur throughout the film. Characters are often juxtaposed on different physical levels. The scenes between Valentine and Kern at his house never show the characters on the same level: Valentine either stands above him or sits below him. When Karin searches for Auguste, he hides on a walkway below her. During the climactic scene in the theater, Valentine stands on the stage, towering over Kern who is in the pit below. Telephone communication is important throughout, and so is broken glass (when Kern reveals his eavesdropping, his neighbors throw rocks through his windows, and at the end of the film Kern watches Valentine and Auguste on the news while watching the outside world through broken glass). Also, when Valentine is bowling, the camera moves down the line to where there sits a broken glass next to a packet of Marlboro cigarettes, which is the brand that Auguste smokes.

Biblical references relating to the Gospel of Matthew are also evident. The old man can be pictured as an Old Testament archetype, a God-like figure. Exploring biblical ideas in Red the questions of the judge being a ‘God’ figure is probably the one that has been explored most often. That he is as an Old Testament God, control over the wind and seas and predicts about people future. This film also depicts topics of the Philosophy of Law and the manner in which man acts in society, the relationship between the law, ethics and socially acceptable behavior and how not all of them coincide, particularly in the reflections by Judge Kern and some symbols related to Auguste.

The film has been interpreted as an anti-romance, in parallel with Blue being an anti-tragedy and White being an anti-comedy.[5]


Three Colors: Red received overwhelmingly positive reviews. It currently holds both a 100/100 rating on Metacritic and a 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 52 reviews, with an average rating of 8.7/10. Rotten Tomatoes' critical consensus reads, "A complex, stirring, and beautifully realized portrait of interconnected lives, Red is the captivating conclusion to a remarkable trilogy."[6] It is one of only three films to receive perfect ratings on both Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic (the other two being Citizen Kane and Rear Window).

Film critic Geoff Andrew responded positively in Time Out London: "While Kieślowski dips into various interconnecting lives, the central drama is the electrifying encounter between Valentine—caring, troubled—and the judge, whose tendency to play God fails to match, initially, the girl's compassion. It's a film about destiny and chance, solitude and communication, cynicism and faith, doubt and desire; about lives affected by forces beyond rationalization. The assured direction avoids woolly mysticism by using material resources—actors, color, movement, composition, sound—to illuminate abstract concepts. Stunningly beautiful, powerfully scored and immaculately performed, the film is virtually flawless, and one of the very greatest cinematic achievements of the last few decades. A masterpiece."[7]

Year-end lists[edit]


Awards and recognition[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Janet Maslin (4 October 1994). "After 'Blue' and 'White,' the Rosiness of 'Red'". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-09-15.
  2. ^ "This year's foreign Oscar race reflects a growingly global medium". Hitfix. Retrieved 1 October 2015.
  3. ^ Galea, Roberto (2012). "Three Colours Trilogy: Krzysztof Kieślowski". Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  4. ^ Mark Russell; James Edward Young (2000). Film Music. Focal Press.
  5. ^ Three Colors Trilogy: Blue, White, Red (1993-1994), by Roger Ebert, March 9, 2003
  6. ^ "Three Colors: Red (Trois Couleurs: Rouge) (1994)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 1 July 2019.
  7. ^ Andrew, Geoff. "Three Colours: Red". Time Out London. Time Out Group. Retrieved 10 April 2018.
  8. ^ Howe, Desson (December 30, 1994), "The Envelope Please: Reel Winners and Losers of 1994", The Washington Post, retrieved July 19, 2020
  9. ^ a b Turan, Kenneth (December 25, 1994). "1994: YEAR IN REVIEW : No Weddings, No Lions, No Gumps". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 20, 2020.
  10. ^ Berardinelli, James (January 2, 1995). "Rewinding 1994 -- The Year in Film". ReelViews. Retrieved July 19, 2020.
  11. ^ Maslin, Janet (December 27, 1994). "CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK; The Good, Bad and In-Between In a Year of Surprises on Film". The New York Times. Retrieved July 19, 2020.
  12. ^ Denerstein, Robert (January 1, 1995). "Perhaps It Was Best to Simply Fade to Black". Rocky Mountain News (Final ed.). p. 61A.
  13. ^ Schuldt, Scott (January 1, 1995). "Oklahoman Movie Critics Rank Their Favorites for the Year Without a Doubt, Blue Ribbon Goes to "Pulp Fiction," Scott Says". The Oklahoman. Retrieved July 20, 2020.
  14. ^ Zoller Seitz, Matt (January 12, 1995). "Personal best From a year full of startling and memorable movies, here are our favorites". Dallas Observer.
  15. ^ Movshovitz, Howie (December 25, 1994). "Memorable Movies of '94 Independents, fringes filled out a lean year". The Denver Post (Rockies ed.). p. E-1.
  16. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Three Colours: Red". Retrieved 2009-08-30.

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