{Of all lies, art is the least untrue - Flaubert}

Friday, November 08, 2013

Kieslowski's Motives

When we talk about goodness of human spirit and the existence of people with such qualities and the need of this spirit in the society, we come across many works that romanticize the issue and miss the whole point. Also some other movies that claim to celebrate the human spirit and its unending power, tend to harp on it as a success solution or a portrayal of the moral-code that goodness is always rewarded, which not only trivialize the whole point on one hand but also belittle this spirit to something which is very narrow and close-ended. Most of the times, the concept of goodness is used to show that the good people are the ones who are the happiest and the end-winner of the banal zero-sum game that negates the basics of goodness and its desperate need in the society. Goodness of people living in society leads to the concept of fraternity with the people we share space and interact in our day-today lives. It is of-course a moral issue, and an issue that decides whether we can be called a good-social-animal or not.

In his last film and also the last part of his coveted color trilogy, Red, Kieslowski explores how we relate to others and given his penchant for co-incidences and fate playing on people, closely examines how these godly coincidences bring us together and once we are together, given our emotional differences, how our quotient of goodness and longing for emotional attachment works. Being the final film of a great auteur's career, Red gains more importance and relevance of being his final voice. Red, being the last film of the trilogy gives an open ended closure to the theme of the relationship between our inner and outer world and how these two criss-cross, putting us on the either side of a thin line. In my view, it is improper (if not futile) to talk about the films of the trilogy separately, it is more wholesome and rewarding to watch and analyze all three of them together, putting pieces of one to complete the puzzle of other thus giving an extra dimension to the former and vice versa.

White explores the concept of equality in terms of an emotion we all understand/relate to some extent, love, and asks us a question whether we are equal in love, or are we held captive by the passion that runs through our hearts. Blue, in its definitive somber tone, talks about the freedom from past and asks us whether being physically alone, leave us emotionally solitary too or it intensifies the effect of physical departure, are we free to govern any of these. Red the closing swan song, gives some answer to some of previously raised questions and in a way seems to convey that emotional bonding to people relieve us and even the driest of the human being have the desperate need for nobler emotions and bonding.

Relating the trilogy and the characters do give a great deal of insight on what Kieslowski ultimately wanted to say. Like music in Blue, shown as a uniting force for the geographically scattered beings, so is the pain, suffering, loss and happiness and all such emotions that make us create it. In a simple scene in Blue, Julie notices a street singer playing a tune exactly same as what her late husband wrote for his project on Unification of Europe and wonders the universality of such feeling and also gives a consent that her loss is not only to herself but universal and widespread, a sense of unification with others. Similarly in Red, the life events of the old-judge and the new-judge repeats not just to make the plot more interesting but to make it more intriguing that we all are being faced by similar situations, but we react to them differently, also almost angelic-virtue of Valentine in Red do suggest that child-like quality in all of us that inspires us to save a dying dog, feel guilty about listening to others private conversation, try hard to make-up with a ever-rough lover and suggest that this child within us is saved even in the final blow of the tempest.

Kieslowski's take of morality is often very personal , you can watch Decalogue to understand what exactly it means, here morality is not a dictum or set rules, lots of the things that seem immoral may be the most humane things to do. If we consider morality with respect to the color trilogy, we get some beautiful insights, In White, Karol, tricks his lover to love her till eternity, I understand that this episode should not be taken literally, but as a fantasy of love, as a subjective morality of a person who being humiliated by his lover, imprisons her, not because of jealousy or hatred, but out of love, and suffers in the same way that she is suffering. The tale in White has little moral significance to general morality but on contemplation it do brings points of equality in the labor of love. Red's take on morality comes from the mouth of the judge, who spies on his neighbors and didn't even justify the motives but he don't consider it bad or criminal, but later after interaction with Valentine he writes letters to his neighbors exposing himself. In way it suggests that our morality changes with interactions we have. Also in A Short Film about Love voyeurism is used as a way to connect people. Also in a very sublime scene, after listening to a conversation of a husband's deceit, Valentine decides to tell the wife but when she goes there she finds out her revelation will disturb the happiness and the apparent family bliss of the woman, thus she steps back. Judge's take on this was that the wife will know about it eventually but Valentine's subjective morality takes her back. Also this episode brings about more, the impact of the decision of a total stranger in one person's life.

One more point that Kieslowski makes in the trilogy in general, particularly in Blue, is about self-obsessiveness with our emotions and condition. Julie is fully immersed in her loss, also the Judge of Red is also left cold by the romantic betrayal, on the contrary Valentine, although also suffering because of her decaying love affair and her brother, yet she has not closed onto herself. Julie drenched with her past and memories of loss and her efforts to leave everything behind, do try to segregate her from the world, the place she dwells in and really need to be in. Julie, when called by her friend in the bar, breaks her bloodless chill, seeing that she could be the one to give solace to her. In White, in a wonderfully panoramic scene with the vast expanse of virgin white ice, Karol with his brother, goes on running and falling on the ice. His brother says "I feel like a kid again", Karol nods "Me too", this light-hearted comic scene do give me an impression of world's as a slippery ground where fall again and again and laugh about it. Also White in some way talks about the impossibility of revenge, at least in case of love or where we really connect to people, this seemingly hopeless thing gives lot of assurance about life in general, and love in particular.

In a recurring and vaguely connecting scene in the trilogy, an old man or woman tries to put a bottle in a recycling bin. In Blue, Julie, lost in her own world, don't even notice it. In White, Karol, getting a pretty bad deal from the world, although sees it, smiles wickedly, almost implying that somebody is even worse than he is. In Red, Valentine after seeing the old woman goes and helps her to put the bottle in the bin. In my view, the color trilogy, as a whole works on moral and empathetic platform with unknown possibilities of life thrown in and a person trying to steer through them. I do feel I have humanized the trilogy to a severe extent, but I also feel and undersatnd that Kieslowski wanted it to interpreted in terms of humble human proportions.


Anonymous said...

Good one,

I really love the way he named his films.

His first one as BLUE which signifies morally rigorous and strict and Low in spirits, Causing dejection.

The second one being WHITE which is free from moral blemish or impurity, without malicious intent but having lost its color.

And the Third one the RED, emotionally charged extreme radicals or revolutionaries
as if with blood from emotion or exertion in anger.

Doesn't it reflecting in the movies? Do add your comments as I have not seen the movies so far.

ventilatorblues said...

This trilogy of films is very dear to me. I have often wanted to write about it and found myself lacking the right words. You said it so beautifully. I think Kieslowski had a sense of the delicate much like Ray or Tarkovsky, at times saying so much without apparently saying anything at all. I also loved your post on Decalogue, which remains for me his crowning achievement.

anurag said...


Kieslowski took these 3 colors (Red, Blue and White) of French Flag denoting Fraternity, Freedom and Equality respectively, but he talked about these lofty concepts in a more humane voice.

The films do reflect the significance of the colors in the way you listed. Blue has a somber tone, like a deep blue lonely swimming pool, talks about liberation, White has a tone of seeking equality (personal, political, sexual...), Red is more about human connection and color seems to signify human warmth and soul (According to Ingmar Bergman, color of soul is red, and that's why so much red is used in Cries and Whispers)

In the words of Kieslowski:
Blue, liberty; White, equality; Red, fraternity... We looked very closely at these three ideas, how they functioned in everyday life, but from an individual's point of view. These ideals are contradictory with human nature. When you deal with them practically, you do not know how to live with them. Do people really want liberty, equality, fraternity?

anurag said...



Apart from Decalouge and Color Trilogy, I recently saw an early masterpiece called 'Blind Chance' by Kieslowski. Some of the recent movies like 'Sliding Doors' and 'Run Lola Run' burrow the concept from that film. Do try it some time.

Alok said...

the trilogy is about that thing called "human condition"!

did you notice that Kieslowski rarely, perhaps never, makes any reference to God or church in the three films.

anurag said...

ya, perhaps only in the wedding scene in White.

Sudhi said...

I think no other movie has used the colors in each frame as kieslowski has used. Juliette binoche's role is my dream role. I am trying to get a copy of Decalogue