Three Colors: White:
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:
In this film, equality is the second message of the "Three Colors" trilogy and that fundamental principle is seen in the male protagonist, Karol Karol, who seeks to get even - equality here means revenge.
After a brief opening, and seemingly unrelated scene of a suitcase on an airport carousel, the story quickly focuses on the Paris divorce court with the same trial going as when Juliette Binoche's character in the first film of this trilogy, "Blue," mistakenly peers inside and only fleetingly hears the voice of Karol pleading with the judge. Like "Blue," the film makes use of white filters and white lighting to convey a mood, appropriately not as dark.
The Polish Karol does not understand well the French language but his lawyer translates a message that, after the judge's questioning, his soon to be ex-wife Dominique does not love him. It had been a whirlwind romance and quick marriage but immediately turns sour. The grounds for the divorce is a humiliating indictment: Karol was unable to consummate the marriage. Unknown to the hapless Karol, the Court has frozen his bank debit card pending their property settlement, and he has his card confiscated while attempting to obtain some money.
But Karol is impotent only in France, just like the new Poland is powerless in the cruel capitalist world - as soon as he will return to Poland, where he was a very sucessful hairdresser - a respected occupation in Poland, he regains both his sexual and financial power.
Penniless, a disheveled Karol is living in a Paris subway station, where he begs for handouts from passers-by. Performing as a musician, using the only thing he has, he folds a handkerchief over a comb and begins to hum songs from his native Poland. To add to his degradation, a stranger passes by, tosses a franc into the case and tells him his fly is open. But, recognizing the Polish song, he speaks to Karol in his native tongue.
The stranger, Mikolaj, and Karol become friends, there relationship based on a unique sympathy for each other: Karol has lost his wife and his property, while Mikolaj, who has money and a loving family is dissatisfied with life and only wants to die. Mikolaj helps him to get back to Poland, and although the return proves a hazardous journey, once there, Karol is at first trying to learn to speak French so he can win Dominique back then he will become determined to get revenge on the woman who has so badly betrayed him.
In Poland, Karol Karol, determined, makes himself rich. Each time he thinks of his ex-wife, she is seen entering a darkened room in a flash-forward. His faked death, and a will that leaves Dominique everything, brings her to his funeral in Poland when a trap has been set: she will be blamed for his murder. But, watching his own funeral through binoculars, he sees her tears and realizes that Dominique perhaps still loves him. But he proceeds with his plan. In the end, living in hiding and doing what he did at the beginning of the film, paying expensive lawyers to help her out, he sees her. The end of the movie, filmed months after the rest of the film, softens Dominique's image. Kieslowski said that he was not satisfied with the previous ending and wanted her to seem less of a monster.
At the very end of the final film of Kieslowski's trilogy, "Red", the conclusion of Karol and Dominique's story is revealed in a simple fleeting moment.
Krzysztof Kieslowski's skill in weaving a story he co-wrote, is evident again in "White". Images are interspersed in simple sequences that seem unconnected to the scenes in which they occur. And, each time there is no immediate understanding for the image. As such, the viewer is forced to pay attention to detail - and to think. This technique of forward referencing is one that broadens the scope of "White", and similarly, furthers connections to the "Three Colors".
This film, at first viewing, appears to be the weakest of the trilogy. But, like the others, it is multi-layered and requires more than one viewing to gain a full understanding that, in the end, leaves only the viewer to interpret its many messages. The brilliant music of Zbigniew Preisner is barely evident, unlike in "Blue".
Roger Ebert calls "White" (and the entire trilogy) a masterpiece.