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Three Colors: Red

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Red is the English language title of the 1994 French language film, Rouge (available with English subtitles).

Co-written, produced, and directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski, Red is the final film of the Three Colors trilogy, preceded first by Blue and then White.

Three Colors: Red:

STARRING:

AWARDS:

Writer/director Krzysztof Kieslowski's trilogy was made back-to-back beginning in 1993. Each of the films takes its name from the colors of the French flag and its themes from the ideals represented by those colors as defined during the French Revolution:

  1. Bleu/Blue -- liberty;
  2. Blanc/White -- equality;
  3. Rouge/Red -- friendship.

Set in Geneva, Switzerland, and like its predecessors, a multi-layered story with many messages, Red has perhaps the simplest storyline of the Kieslowski trilogy. It also received more English media recognition than "Blue" or "White" after the critical successes of the first two parts of the trilogy.

The film begins with clips that track a telephone call between London, England to the other end of the line in Geneva. As the story unfolds, the viewer sees that telephones allow the characters to interact with one another without any emotional commitment. And, the film will focus on the consequences of private telephone conversations being listened to by a lonely retired Swiss judge, Joseph Kern. The viewer understands that the relationships that arise, in this case from the artificiality of a telephone line, cannot be sustained without the physical connection. That physical connection will soon apply to the judge's electronic eavesdropping on his neighbors conversations.

The concept of privacy, justice, and personal duty are brought out through the use of these conversations as Valentine, a naive university student and part time model, begins to face her own emotional inadequacies after meeting the voyeuristic Kern following her accidentally injuring his dog. The developing platonic friendship and personal revelations between the young, idealistic woman and the bitter older judge, provides the vehicle for change in both characters. Valentine is in love with an emotionally distant but possessive man, Michel, and the Judge wallows in self pity, still in love with the wife who left him many years ago.

Woven into their developing friendship is the story of Valentine's neighbor, a legal student named Auguste, who is in and out of her daily routine without either realizing it. Auguste, perhaps a reincarnation of the elderly Joseph, undergoes a personal betrayal by his girlfriend, Karin, whose conversations have been monitored by her neighbor, the judge. Through their encounters, the lives of these four characters unfold and fraternity emerges. Yet, despite its warmth and theme, director Kieslowski often keeps the characters emotionally distanced from the events around them by using numerous scenes where a window comes between the camera and the principal action.

The windows that keep Joseph from closeness begin to open when he will take his first step to reach out by sending a letter to the police and to neighbours, informing them he has been listening in on their telephone conversations. Following a court appearance for his wrongdoing, his neighbours respond by throwing rocks at his house, breaking the windows.

Valentine's understanding and appreciation of Joseph grows and when the recluse former judge ventures out of his house to see her fashion show he reveals to her the story of his betrayal thirty-five years prior.

A sophisticated production, "Red" is a visually beautiful film that utilizes moods and intellectual themes to provide some answers to the questions raised by the entire trilogy. The unpredictable plot takes many twists and turns and, as in the previous two films, throughout "Red," director Kieslowski uses its title color to continually remind the audience of the fraternity theme. The color red is seen on the canopy of the neighborhood restaurant, a character's automobile, and principally with the huge advertising banner featuring Valentine's facial profile.

At the conclusion of this film a final twist of fate reveals the destiny of the characters from the entire trilogy. In the final shot of the film, after Joseph learns that Valentine has survived the disaster and found Auguste, he looks through a broken window in his house, seeing a different world outside.

Wrapped around a brillant music score by Zbigniew Preisner, "Red" is the warmest of the three colors, giving the viewer the message that without "fraternity, " all the "liberty" and "equality" in the world is meaningless. However, when all three films are examined as a whole, the common unifying element is love.

Roger Ebert and most critics deem "Red" (and the entire triology) as a masterpiece and one of the finest of cinematic achievements.

"This is the kind of film that makes you feel intensely alive while you're watching it, and sends you out into the streets afterwards eager to talk deeply and urgently, to the person you are with. Whoever that happens to be." ... Roger Ebert



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