Three Colours: Red
|Three Colors: Red|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Krzysztof Kieślowski|
|Music by||Zbigniew Preisner|
|Edited by||Jacques Witta|
|Distributed by||Miramax (US)|
|Box office||$3.5 million|
Three Colors: Red (French: Trois couleurs : Rouge) is a 1994 romantic mystery film co-written, produced and directed by Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieślowski. It is the final installment of The Three Colors Trilogy, which examines the French Revolutionary ideals; it is preceded by Blue and White. Kieślowski had announced that this would be his final film, 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.
University student Valentine Dussault (Irène Jacob) in Geneva is talking to her possessive boyfriend in London to prepare for a visit. 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, 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 German Shepherd dog. She tracks down the owner, a retired judge, Joseph Kern (Jean-Louis Trintignant). He seems unconcerned. Valentine takes the dog, Rita, to a veterinarian, where she learns that she is pregnant. 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. Valentine hears that Kern is eavesdropping on a male neighbour's sexual telephone conversation with his male lover. The judge challenges Valentine to tell 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 / not telling and spying / not spying make no difference to the eventual outcome of other people's lives. 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 him, Kern 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 stages 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. 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 6 of them in freeze-frame: Julie and Olivier from Blue, Karol and Dominique from White, Auguste and finally Valentine. The final image replicates the iconic ad poster of Valentine, but this time with real emotion showing on her face.
- Irène Jacob as Valentine Dussault
- 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)
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." 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.
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 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.
A symbol common to the three films is that of an underlying link or thing that keeps the protagonist linked to his/her past, in the case of Red the judge never closes his doors or gates, despite the fact that he wants to be cut off from everything; also relevant are fountain pens, in a seemingly unconnected scene Auguste gets a fountain pen as a gift and he wonders how many destinies he will change with the pen, later in the film Judge Kern is about to write letters to his neighbours denouncing himself as a spy and his pen stops working and he is forced to write his letters with a pencil. In the case of White the items that link Karol to his past are a 2 Fr. coin and a plaster bust of Marianne that he steals from an antique store in Paris. In the case of Blue it is a lamp of blue beads and a recurring image of people falling.
Another recurring image related to the spirit of the film is that of elderly people recycling bottles; in the case of Red an old woman cannot reach the hole of the container and Valentine helps her (in the spirit of solidarity underlying the film). In Blue, an old woman in Paris is recycling bottles and Julie does not notice her (in the spirit of freedom); in White, an old man also in Paris is trying to recycle a bottle but cannot reach the container and Karol looks at him with a sinister grin on his face (in the spirit of equality). Each films' ending shot is of a character crying. In Blue, Julie de Courcy cries looking into space. In White, Karol cries as he looks at his wife. In Red, the judge Kern cries as he looks through his broken window out at the camera.
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.
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Three Colors: Red received overwhelmingly positive reviews and currently holds a 100% "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 47 reviews. Film critic Geoff Andrew responded positively in Time Out: "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."
Awards and recognition
- Nominated for three Academy Awards:
- Cannes Film Festival, Palme d'Or (nominated)
- National Board of Review, Best Foreign Language Film
- New York Film Critics Circle Awards, Best Foreign Language Film
- National Society of Film Critics Awards, Best Foreign Language Film
- Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards, Best Foreign Film
- Zbigniew Preisner won the César Award for Best Music.
- César Award nominations:
- Red was selected by the New York Times as one of "The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made."
- Three Colors: Blue
- Three Colors: White
- List of films with a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a film review aggregator website
- List of submissions to the 67th Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film
- List of Swiss submissions for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film
- Janet Maslin (4 October 1994). "After 'Blue' and 'White,' the Rosiness of 'Red'". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-09-15.
- "This year's foreign Oscar race reflects a growingly global medium". Hitfix. Retrieved 1 October 2015.
- Galea, Roberto (2012). "Three Colours Trilogy: Krzysztof Kieślowski". Culture.pl. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
- Mark Russell; James Edward Young (2000). Film Music. Focal Press.
- Studies in Eastern European Cinema, volume 2, number 1 (2011-03-01), p. 75
- Three Colors Trilogy: Blue, White, Red (1993-1994), by Roger Ebert, March 9, 2003
- "Three Colors: Red". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2010-10-18.
- "Festival de Cannes: Three Colours: Red". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-08-30.
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