I recently had the privilege of watching the three films that make up Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colours Trilogy: Blue (1993), White (1994), and Red (1994). The three films contain separate storylines, but also have interconnecting moments, elements, and events. In this review, as opposed to my previous reviews of each individual film, I will consider the trilogy as a whole rather than its separate parts.
The trilogy is based around the three French Revolutionary ideals: liberty, equality, and fraternity. Blue, the story of a woman who lost her husband and child in a car accident, is liberty; the film follows her attempts to construct a new life as a free woman. White, where a man seeks to get back at his wife for divorcing him in embarrassing circumstances, is equality; the man seeks an equal playing field after being dominated by his ex-wife. And finally, Red, the story of a woman who develops an unlikely friendship with an older man, is fraternity; although the woman and man are very different, they find a common bond between one another.
The acting throughout this trilogy is impeccable. Juliette Binoche stands out as Julie Vignon in Blue, and her portrayal of a woman stricken by grief and loss is luminous. Zbigniew Zamachowski as Karol Karol displays the perfect mix between humour, a broken heart, and a serious need for revenge in White. His antics can be perceived as bumbling until you realise that behind this facade lies someone who is genuinely, seriously damaged. Finally, in Red, Irène Jacob’s wide-eyed exploration of the world around her is so compelling. She is beautiful, but she also has substance. As a cast, they complement each other so well. It is in the final moments of the final film that the cast are given their curtain call, and the significance of each character to one another is displayed. I’m not going to put any spoilers in this review (shock), but I will say that the ending gave me an exceptional amount of goosebumps.
One important thing to note is that I believe that this trilogy rewards its viewers for paying attention. Although all three films have individual storylines, there are moments throughout the trilogy that are common between them; which give an insight into the trilogy as a whole and how the three seemingly unrelated stories are inevitably tangled up, regardless of any choices the characters make. For example, all main characters visit a court of law where a significant moment occurs, which changes the direction of each story. It is also obvious when watching that there is a certain moment that is repeated throughout all three: the old woman, attempting to recycle a glass bottle in a receptacle that is too high for her to reach. However, where this becomes more meaningful and rewarding is when you consider each main characters’ response to the helpless old woman, and how this aligns with the theme or ideal of each film. It is these layers of interconnecting meaning that make the trilogy an incredibly rewarding watch. You can’t just watch one. Each film works best as a part of a whole.
It is quite obvious when watching the films that the colour scheme of each matches their title. Blue has a very cool-toned colour scheme and set design, with occasional shots of pure, fluorescent blue as Julie is in the swimming pool. White‘s use of colour is more subtle, perhaps because white is a more neutral shade and is less obtrusive than blue or red. The visuals sometimes seem to be washed out, with less contrast compared with the other films, and there is the dirty white snow of Poland from the second act of the film onwards. Red‘s use of colour was beautiful but much more blatant. Sometimes I found myself thinking, “Does everyone really have red furniture in their Paris apartments?”. However, it is undeniable that each film’s use of colour, and attention to detail when it comes to colour, is stunning. I was so impressed by the cinematography and setup of each shot and often wished I could take a screenshot of the television screen so that I could keep the image with me.
As a sidenote, in addition to its beautiful visuals, the trilogy also has one of the most beautiful film scores I’ve heard of late. Zbigniew Preisner’s score suits each film perfectly and its grand, lush tones are a treat for the ears.
If I were to rank the films in order of most favourite to least, I would rank them: Blue, then Red, then White. Blue was my absolute favourite of the trilogy as I felt that it dealt with the issue of grief and loss in a brutally honest way, which I loved watching despite its pain; you don’t often see this type of raw grief on film. It also seems to flow the best out of the three films. Even though I initially felt annoyed by the humour in White, as I watched it directly after Blue and was expecting something very different, after watching the trilogy as a whole I can see clearly that it has its rightful place in the trilogy and that its humour is indicative of the spirit in which it was made. This makes me appreciate its humour a lot more. Red was a superbly intriguing watch also, and did an amazing job at bringing everything and everyone together in a way that was very unexpected. But overall, Blue was the absolute winner.
Overall, I adored this trilogy. I can’t say it enough. I loved it. While I rate some films higher than others, when considering them all together as a singular unit, the way that the films interact and complement each other is beyond amazing. The trilogy rewards you for watching it until the very end, and this is the reason why you should watch it all rather than picking and choosing one or two. The films are strongest in combination with one another, which is incredibly unique. I think this trilogy will be sticking in my mind for a long time.
Agreed. It’s hard to rank the three individually because they work so well as a collective. I saw this trilogy in the late ’90s, so my memory is fuzzy. But I do remember thinking it was great, primarily as a whole.
Maybe I’ll go back and give them another shit at some point.
Yeah, it was funny to see how my responses changed to each of the films after finishing all of them and having a big think about them in conjunction with one another. It’s so rare when that happens. I would say they’re definitely worth a re-watch! I’m definitely going to give myself some time (to have a look at some other films :)) and then give them a go again.
I’ve heard much of these but have yet to watch. Thinking I need to add these to the top of my queue.
Definitely escalate them to the top of the queue! You won’t regret it!
[…] Up: The Three Colours Trilogy (1993; 1994) Technically three films, but they are so interrelated that I’m including the […]
three truly brilliant, shattering films. hard to watch one without immediately wanting to see the other two.
Totally agreed, the trilogy as a whole is so perfect!