When I was setting up this year’s blind spot picks I took what seemed like a big risk in my pick for April. Deciding to go with a trilogy of films called the Three Colors Trilogy seemed like a big ask. Little did I know we would have a pandemic and I’d be in quarantine for the entire month! It ended up being the ideal choice!
The Three Colors Trilogy is a trio of films by polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski. The 3 films are loosely tied together stories that are named after the colors of the French flag and supposedly meant to be emblematic of the 3 political ideals associated with each color: blue=liberty, white=equality, red=fraternity. Some also feel the films are an anti-tragedy, anti-comedy, and anti-romance.
While I admire the boldness of the project, the trilogy is bookended by 2 great films with a real turkey stuck in the middle. That’s right. I enjoyed Blue and Red but found white to be a big misfire. However, as they aren’t very connected this isn’t a huge problem and I’d honestly suggest just skipping White all together.
Anyway, here are my thoughts on all 3:
Blue stars Juliette Binoche as a widow who loses both her daughter and husband in a horrible car accident at the beginning of the film. She is a classical music composer, as was her husband, but he got most of the praise and glory. Now out of the hospital she has to try to put her life back together all the while discovering new revelations about her husband along the way.
This is a very ‘fly on the wall’ type of movie with us mostly following Binoche around as she makes choices. One minute she is reuniting with a former lover, another she is selling her house, then moving to Paris etc. Fortunately she’s a compelling enough character for this to work. Binoche does a terrific job playing this damaged woman and her responses felt real and honest- no melodrama here.
I also enjoyed the way Kieslowski brought in the color blue into the film through a blue chandelier and lots of time in or near swimming pools. It was more than a gimmick but a way to establish moods of grief and loss.
Blue is a definite great start to the trilogy!
8 out of 10
As I mentioned above White is the film in the trilogy that is the big miss. It stars Zbigniew Zamachowski as a sad sap of a man who at the start of the film is getting divorced by his wife. She is played by Julie Delpy and she wants a divorce because he has failed to consummate their relationship. He then spends the rest of the movie feeling sorry for himself and planning his elaborate revenge.
At one point he gets involved with the mafia and sends himself in a suitcase to Poland to finish a job for a shady friend. I guess such gestures are supposed to be the ‘anti-comedy’ of the trilogy, but I didn’t laugh. I found him selfish, rude and irritating. I think there is supposed to be satisfaction in his ending, but I found it pathetic.
I suppose the acting and filming of White is fine but the story and characters were too insufferable and annoying for me to care about. Let’s just say it’s a slice of life I can do without!
4 out of 10
The highlight of the trilogy is the concluding film, Red. Instead of an irritating useless male character as we saw in White, in Red you get a layered, interesting character and an ending that ties the trilogy together.
Red tells the story of a model named Valentine played by Irene Jacob. One day she has a car accident with a dog and she seeks out the dog owner. It turns out to be a former judge played by Jean-Louis Trintignant. Unfortunately the judge doesn’t care about the dog but he has a sophisticated technology for listening in on the conversations of his neighbors.
Like in Rear Window, as he listens he becomes more involved in their lives and starts to make assumptions about what is best for them. Valentine tries to help the judge but things become more complicated by the minute. She also has her own love problems to deal with along with some bad luck at work and in her social life.
Like Blue, Red works because it has a compelling main character we are interested in. The reason it is better than Blue is because the plot is more linear and engaging and Valentine is a more complex character (it was nominated for best screenplay). It’s also beautifully made from the lighting, music, direction, all the way to the cinematography. It’s a gem!
9 out of 10
5 thoughts on “Blind Spot 52: ‘The Three Colors Trilogy’”
I think I might have heard of this trilogy before….maybe. just out of curiosity, we’re the themes you mentioned at the beginning (liberty, equality, fraternity) found in each of the films in any sort of clear way? Your summary doesn’t make it seem like it, so I wondered.
No they really aren’t very clear especially in the 2nd one I dont see the connection
Recently revisited all three of these after almost ten years, and if anything liked them a little more this time.
I’d rate Blue as the best, partly because it manages to keep the viewer fascinated while still having the least happen in terms of plot.
Although I enjoyed White, it’s definitely the least of the three; my issue is that it’s simultaneously the most plot-driven while also having scenes missing. In a film like Blue, you can get away with leaving things out (‘Elliptical!’ comes the cry), but not so much here.
Unlike White, Red managed to create two very interesting main characters, though neither were quite as memorable for me as the one in Blue. The setup was a bit shakier as well, though that’s easily shaken off.
As for how the movies tie into France’s motto, this trilogy is a little like Kieslowski’s ten-part Decalogue, which was nominally about the Ten Commandments: there is a certain connection between each episode and the word/commandment, but it’s not very direct and there’s also a certain spillover (more than one idea is depicted in each film). It’s not as neat, but in a way it’s better: a viewer looking for a one-to-one correlation instead has to look at how all the parts connect, and can’t simply separate one idea from the rest.
I found this page upon searching reviews of White, the second film that Rachel was so frustrated by, and I was equally agitated by her surface level comments that barely make any remarks about the themes that the film actually explores. Torn between love, obsession, forgiveness, revenge, desire, temptation, jealousy and more both the main character and his ex-wife embody real life emotions that people experience but attempt to disregard. Rachel’s dislike for the main character is interesting to me as I believe the entire trilogy including this particular film demonstrates the complexity of being human and interpersonal relationships, embodying traits relatable to many. Anyway, I find her commentary extremely insufficient to call out a film as excellent as this 4/10. I wish people would try to engage more with artistic expression and real life before shunning down other’s efforts.
Sorry you didn’t enjoy the review. While artistry is important it’s also key a viewer becomes engaged with characters and story.