The fluid grace of Three Colours: Red

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This is the final part of Kieslowski’s masterful Three Colours Trilogy, and continues the high quality of the first two instalments. Some might argue that it’s better. For me (and I hate to do this in such an arbitrary manner) it is just a notch below Blue and a little bit above White. The plot is ambiguous to the point where it is irrelevant/non-existent, even more so than the other two, but the performances are stellar, and the conclusion is one of the most stirring, electrifying finales in cinematic history.

This time around it tells the story of Valentine, a model, who lives alone in her flat and maintains a long-distance relationship with a man called Michel, whom we never see. She fills her life with little things, like ballet and bowling. It is clear she longs for fulfilment. We are also shown the life of the man in the flat near her. They don’t know each other. She strikes up an unlikely friendship with a lonely, retired judge who enjoys phone-tapping, after she runs over his dog accidentally. He doesn’t much care for his dog, and this draws Valentine to him.

It might sound complicated, but the wonder of this film is watching how the various parts mesh together. Truth be told, this film doesn’t really have much of a plot: just a series of events that work together. I mentioned the man in the flat opposite: he isn’t crucial to the story, and Valentine doesn’t meet him until the end, by coincidence, and even then we don’t know if they actually talk to each other.

None of this would work, though, if the characters didn’t seem real. Thank god, they do. Valentine’s boyfriend is a man who says that the chewing gum company she is working for is using her. How rare, that a character we never see should speak such sense! A man working for Valentine makes advances on her. He asks her who she is thinking about: “Not you,” she replies. He looks back, slightly crestfallen, and we never see him again. It is a small scene, but like the many small scenes in this film, they add something, give it depth. Each character has a life outside of this film, one in which they are the lead actor or actress. It is testament to Kieslowski’s skill that he can do all this with one or two lines of dialogue.

Yet there is something else at work here as well. Kieslowski’s camera moves, with fluid grace. The opening sequence, for example, sees the camera draw back from Valentine, who is on the phone, and go into the plug socket. It carries on going, following the brightly coloured wires, until it comes to the sea. The camera still carries on going, until we reach the other end. It is a bravura sequence, and one the likes of which doesn’t appear in the other two parts of the trilogy. This isn’t the only time it does this: we get the sense that Kieslowski started to play with tracking shots and pull-backs and zooms, because in none of the other films I’ve seen by him does anything like this happen.

This is the film that strays farthest from its ‘theme’ (fraternity). It doesn’t have an awful lot to do with that theme, and to try and understand it under that theme is pointless: everyone going in will get something different from this film, and I will not taint your viewing of it by trying to make you understand what I thought he was trying to say, if anything.

It very cleverly avoids a pat ending, while delivering a moving one, a beautiful one, and one we deserve. Kieslowski made no more films after this, and died two years after this was completed. It’s a shame, but what a film to bow out with. What a film.

• Here’s the trailer (but you might need to brush up on your French)

Buy Three Colours Red on Amazon

Buy the The Three Colours Trilogy on Amazon