Three Colors: Red (
, ) is a 1994 French-Polish-Swiss co-production, co-written, produced, and directed
by Polish filmmaker
It is the final film of the Three Colors trilogy
, which examines the French
; it is preceded by Blue
. Kieślowski had announced
that this would be his final film, which proved true with the
director's sudden death in 1996. Red
is about fraternity
(brotherhood), which it examines by
showing characters whose lives gradually become closely
interconnected, with bonds forming between two characters who
appear to have little in common.
begins with clips that track a telephone call between London and Geneva, where a
university student and part-time model, Valentine, is talking to
her emotionally distant but possessive boyfriend.
driving to her apartment, she accidentally runs over a dog. She
tracks down the owner, a reclusive retired judge, Joseph Kern. He
seems unconcerned by the accident or the injuries sustained by
Rita, his dog. Valentine takes Rita to a veterinarian, where she
learns that Rita is pregnant. Valentine takes the dog home.
A parallel story follows Valentine's neighbor, Auguste, a lawyer
who is in and out of her daily routine without either realizing it.
Auguste is studying for legal exams and has a girlfriend, Karin,
whose job is to provide "personal weather forecasts" to
Valentine models for a chewing-gum ad. During the shooting, the
photographer instructs her to be very sad. Valentine also receives
an unexpected gift of money. She purchases a newspaper, as she buys
a newspaper when it has a picture of someone she knows.
While walking home with his books, Auguste accidentally drops one
on the street. When he picks it up, the book is open to a
particular article, which he begins to read.
While taking Rita for a walk, the dog runs off again and Valentine
figures that it went home to Kern, where she finally finds the dog.
He says that Rita is now hers since he wishes for nothing in life.
After Valentine asks if he might want to stop breathing, he answers
that that is a good idea. Valentine learns that Kern had sent the
money, as payment for the vet. Valentine learns after entering
Kern's house that he eavesdrops secretly on his neighbour's private
telephone conversations, which indicate that the husband is having
a secret affair with another man. Valentine is appalled and
threatens to denounce Kern to his neighbour. Kern challenges her to
do this and points out the neighbour's residence. When she arrives,
she discovers that the man's wife is very nice and that their
daughter is also listening in on the conversation.
After Valentine returns to Kern, he tells her that she did not
denounce him to prevent any damage to the family, and tells her
that it is of no consequence, as it would not stop the destruction
of the family when his secret would be finally revealed. Valentine
asks Kern to stop, but he tells her that he has been spying on
people all his life because of his profession, but only through his
eavesdropping he knows where truth really lies, as opposed to the
courtroom. She does not believe it and says that she feels nothing
but pity for him. Before she leaves, Kern figures out the person in
the newspaper, Valentine's brother, who is featured in an article
related to drug use. Valentine also says that he probably does that
because he recently discovered that he is not his father's son. She
tells Kern that Rita is pregnant.
While having her conversation with Kern, Valentine hears a
conversation between Karin and Auguste, where they discuss going
. Valentine covers her ears, but from
the very little she heard she concludes that they love each other.
Kern disagrees, as he foresees the future of their
Auguste passes his exam and becomes a judge. Karin asks him if he
received any questions regarding the article that was open when he
dropped his books. Auguste says yes. Karin gives him a fountain pen
as a gift and asks which shall be
the first sentence he will sign with it.
After her conversation with Kern, Valentine goes home and cries.
She hopes for her boyfriend to call but instead she receives a call
from her photographer, as her poster has been printed in a gigantic
format. The two go bowling.
We see Kern writing letters, using a pencil as his fountain pen
will not work. Next we see him entering a courtroom with his
neighbours. Valentine reads a newspaper headline saying that Kern
has been convicted of spying on his neighbours. She drives to his
house to tell him that it was not her who denounced him. Kern tells
her that he did it himself to see her reaction, because he knows
that the pity she felt for him at their meeting was actually
disgust. He tells Valentine that he knew that after she left, she
cried and that he had a dream about her. Concurrently, Karin has
met another man at the courthouse.
Kern asks Valentine to join him in a drink because it is his
birthday. He talks about a case where he acquitted a man that
turned out to be guilty, but afterward led an honest life. A stone
breaks one of his windows. Valentine cleans up, and Kern asks her
to put the stone on the piano, where other stones are present. He
tells her that despite the fact that he cannot hear their
conversations anymore, his neighbors are very angry and he
understands them and if he were them, he would also throw stones.
Valentine does not understand at first, but he goes on to tell that
when he used to be a Judge he passed his decisions based on what he
thought, not in the context of people's feelings.
Auguste has been trying to get in contact with Karin, but is unable
to reach her on the phone. He drives to her building, and receives
no answer when he knocks on her door. He climbs up the wall of her
building. Through her bedroom window, he sees Karin and a man
making love. Later, Auguste sees Karin and the man at a cafe, and
taps on the window with the pen to get her attention. He runs away
and avoids talking with her as she tries to call to him.
the film, Valentine has been planning a trip to England to visit her
Kern suggests that she take the ferry, and she
purchases a ticket. The day before she leaves, she invites Kern to
a fashion show where she is modeling. After the show, they speak
about a dream he had about her, where she was 50 years old and
happy with an unidentified man. The conversation then turns to him
and the reasons why he disliked Karin. Kern reveals that before
becoming a judge, he was in love with a woman very much like Karin,
who betrayed him for another man. In his younger days, he once went
to the same theatre where the fashion show took place and he
accidentally dropped one of his books. When he picked it up, Kern
studied the chapter where the book had opened, which turned out to
be the crucial question at his examination. Later, Kern was
assigned to judge a case where the defendant was the same man who
took his girlfriend from him. In spite of this connection, Kern did
not recuse himself from the case, but he subsequently resigned his
Valentine takes her ferry to England. At Kern's home, Rita has
. Auguste is traveling on the
same ferry as Valentine. Karin and her new boyfriend are sailing on
a separate boat. Kern had called Karin about the weather in
Channel, which she had expected to be perfect.
both boats are sailing, a storm rises and sinks both the ferry and
the boat with Karin and her boyfriend. Only seven survivors are
pulled from the ferry: the main characters from the first two films
of the trilogy, Julie and Olivier from Blue
, Karol and
Dominique from White
, Valentine and Auguste, who meet for
the first time, as well as an English bartender named Stephen
Killian. The film's final image reproduces the poster image of
As in the previous two films, a single color dominates: numerous
objects in the film are bright red
the huge advertising banner featuring Valentine's facial profile.
Several images recur throughout the film. Telephone communication
is important throughout, and so is broken glass (when Kern reveals
his eavesdropping, his neighbors throw rocks through his windows,
and the end of the film Kern watches Valentine and Auguste on the
news while watching the outside world through broken glass). Also,
when Valentine is bowling, the camera moves down the line to where
there sits a broken glass next to a packet of Marlboro cigarettes,
which is the brand that Auguste smokes.
Another recurring image related to the spirit of the film is that
of elderly people recycling
the case of Red
an old woman cannot reach the hole of the
container and Valentine helps her (in the spirit of solidarity
underlying the film). In Three
, an old woman in Paris is recycling bottles
and Julie does not notice her (in the spirit of freedom); in
Three Colors: White
old man also in Paris is trying to recycle a bottle but cannot
reach the container and Karol looks at him with a sinister grin on
his face (in the spirit of equality).
This film also depicts topics of Law
and the manner in which man acts in society, the
relationship between the law, ethics and socially acceptable
behaviour and how not all of them coincide, particularly in the
reflections by Judge Kern and some symbols
related to Auguste.
The film has been interpreted as an anti-romance, in parallel with
being an anti-tragedy and White
Film critic Geoff Andrew responded positively in Time Out
"While Kieslowski dips into various interconnecting lives, the
central drama is the electrifying encounter between Valentine -
caring, troubled - and the judge, whose tendency to play God fails
to match, initially, the girl's compassion. It's a film about
destiny and chance, solitude and communication, cynicism and faith,
doubt and desire; about lives affected by forces beyond
rationalisation. The assured direction avoids woolly mysticism by
using material resources - actors, colour, movement, composition,
sound - to illuminate abstract concepts. Stunningly beautiful,
powerfully scored and immaculately performed, the film is virtually
flawless, and one of the very greatest cinematic achievements of
the last few decades. A masterpiece."
composed by long-term Krzysztof Kieślowski
also depicts compositions by Van den
Budenmayer, a fictional Dutch composer,
created by Zbigniew Preisner who
also features in other compositions made for Kieslowsky's films,
such as The Double Life
of Veronique, the Decalogue and Three Colors: Blue.
- 1. Love At First Sight
- 2. Fashion Show l
- 3. Meeting The Judge
- 4. The Tapped Conversation
- 5. Leaving The Judge
- 6. Psychoanalysis
- 7. Today Is My Birthday
- 8. Do Not Take Another Man's Wife l
- 9. Treason
- 10. Fashion Show ll
- 11. Conversation At The Theatre
- 12. The Rest Of The Conversation At The Theatre
- 13. Do Not Take Another Man's Wife II
- 14. Catastrophe
- 15. Finale
- 16. L'Amour Au Premier Regard
Awards and recognition
- Red was selected by the New York Times as one of "The Best 1,000
Movies Ever Made."
- Three Colors Trilogy: Blue, White, Red
(1993-1994), by Roger Ebert, March 9, 2003