In the history of cinema there are few movie trilogies quite like Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Les Trois Couleurs Trilogy. So named after the colours of the French flag and each representing a different ideal of the French revolution–liberty, equality, and fraternity–these three films are as far from Hollywood’s idea of a trilogy as you can get. Released close together between 1993 and 1994, the three films were met with radical acclaim and prove to be incredibly potent pieces of filmmaking to this day. Beginning with Blue, continuing with White, and completing with Red, The Three Colours Trilogy is sumptuously made, intellectually stimulating, and breathtakingly original. Watching them again on this newly released Blu-ray collection only confirms what critics, and even Academy and Golden Globe voters, at the time were hailing as masterpieces.
My personal favourite is Blue, but in saying that I feel a bit bad for Red, the concluding chapter that is so expertly tuned and perhaps the most artistically sound, that it’s easy to see why it snagged itself Oscar nominations for Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Cinematography. I just think the central performance in Blue, Juliette Binoche as Julie, is so ravishing that I could watch it over and over again. White, the problematic middle child of the bunch, is hardly a bad film, but it’s certainly the weakest as its political subtext becomes buried beneath fleeting fluff.
Each film is bathed in its titular colour, but it’s amazing how this visual choice doesn’t become precious or repetitive. For instance, Binoche’s face is constantly bathed in blue light, whether it be angelic or menacing, but the images captured are so beautiful that she could be an Avatar and it wouldn’t matter. Her story was, I found, the most compelling of the three as Julie navigates her way through life after surviving the car accident that killed her daughter and philandering husband. The scores of Zbigniew Preisner haunt all three pictures, but none more so than Blue wherein the work of Julie’s composer husband frequently haunts–even taunting–her memories and her life as she attempts to move on.
The way Kieslowski weaves each film around one another is as captivating as the films themselves. One must look carefully, but notice in White during one of the courtroom sequences that a door at the back of the frame momentarily opens and a blurred figure appears in the doorway. Remember then back to Blue and that it was Julie who briefly opens the courtroom door. The final scene of Red obviously needs no explanation, but it all speaks to the idea of inter-connectedness that Kieslowski and his co-writer Krzysztof Piesiewicz discuss in rather ironic tones throughout. At a combined running time of 290 minutes, The Three Colours Trilogy is a rather monumental feat of filmmaking. Crafted with rich, complex images–my favourite of the entire trilogy remains the close-up of a sugar cube absorbing water from a cup of tea, it’s just sublime and says so much about the idea that in order to really absorb life we have to, to stretch the metaphor as far as possible, wade into the waters–it remains a high point of filmmaking from the 1990s. Now I just need to get around to watching Kieslowski’s much-ballyhooed The Decalogue… I just need to find ten hours to do so! Kieslowski doesn’t make things easy for us, does he?
The Three Colours Trilogy is out now on DVD and Blu-ray through Icon Films