One of the many highlights of the 90’s reassertion of realism; The Three Colours Trilogy, by director Krzysztof Kieslowski, can be seen as one of the high bench marks of film before the digital age. It’s hard to imagine a successful set of mainstream films being so metaphorical and altogether emotionally deep getting so far in the world these days, which is why this box set of all three films is a perfect buy for those after some beautiful realism with only a hint of grit.
The first film in the trilogy is Three Colours: Blue and it’s arguably the best of the three. The story concerns the wife of a successful composer who has to restart her life after the death of her daughter and husband in a car accident. We follow her journey through the various emotional states as she seeks to rebuild life without attachment to anything as to prevent further emotional harm. In many ways the film is a straightforward emotional drama but it’s in the way it shows us this emotional development that it draws away from its contemporaries and becomes something altogether more special. Music plays a key part in the impact of the film and the haunting unfinished work by her late husband gradually becomes the stories focus, as characters trying to break back into Julie’s life want it finished. Another aspect that becomes apparent when watching this trilogy is the use colour that accompanies each film. In this particular instance the blues in the film are exaggerated to great effect whether it’s the blue of the opening car journey or the blue of the swimming pool in which Julie swims in to give herself her own metaphorical re-birth. It’s an effecting and beautiful film and the strongest opening possible for the trilogy.
The second film, Three Colours: White, is not on the same level as the former but explores similar interesting territories of life in the French society (though in this case the film quickly moves to Poland). Karol, a polish immigrant, goes back home to Poland so he can plot revenge on his ex-wife in Paris for treating him badly and taking all his money in the divorce. The snowy landscape of Poland allows for Kieslowski to bring out the whites of the film and make it an icy watch. It’s only in the moments of emotional development do we find any warmth but the iciness is also softened by some of the more comedic moments which are sparsely hidden in the film. Karol travels to Poland in a briefcase and upon arriving there works his way up the financial and social ladder till he is in the position to get revenge on Dominique, his wife. Suffice to say Karol gets his revenge and yet in the touching final moments of the film, we see it’s more of a case of Karol showing Dominique her true self as his real goal and this gentle touch makes it far more mature and watchable than other relationship revenge films.
Another touch that pushes these films into the realm of high art is how they are linked together. Unlike having an obtuse link between all three films like most trilogy’s would, the links other than the looking at modern France, are simply characters walking on to scenes from previous films, showing all the characters are connected by living in the same world. The most obvious is the connection between the first two films that will have the viewer stating out loud “oh yeah!” if due attention was paid during the first film.
The final film, Three Colours: Red, is the most touching. It’s also in this last film that the trilogy’s influence on recent films can be seen. Valentine is a beautiful model who stumbles upon “the Judge”, a character who thrives on solitude and listens in on his neighbour’s telephone calls. The film shows their relationship progress from disgust on both sides to a deep but quiet friendship that develops through looking into the past of the judge’s life. Again the reds in the film are exaggerated whether it’s the judge’s old car or the background to Valentine’s latest advert campaign but it’s a film that doesn’t need any visual splendour as its story is so heart-warming (eventually.) Looking at these three films it’s easy to see their influence on some of the more well known cinematic escapes. It’s hard to imagine Amelie without having these films set the groundwork as many aspects of the story are taken from both Three Colours: Blue and Three Colours: Red (the latter’s main character even looks and acts like Audrey Tautou’s Amelie Poulain.)
Also contained in the box set is the short documentary film about Keislowki, I’m So-So. Though the initial impression of it can be poor due to the clear lack of budget, it’s a film that gets under a director’s skin more than any average documentary could. It even neglects to mention two of this trilogy’s films but it’s a small criticism in what is essentially a good piece of work looking at the influences and back catalogue of an often overlooked director.
Overall the box set is a great buy. Not only is it cheaper than buying all three films individually, you get the care and attention that goes into every Artificial Eye release meaning you get the best possible prints of the film available and you get the extra documentary too. The box itself is inscribed with comments from Time Out writer Geoff Andrews who states the films are “one of the very greatest cinematic achievements of the last few decades”. This reviewer can only agree.