The Three Colors Trilogy
The Color of Humanity
Kieslowski’s Three Colours films stands as a trilogy depicting the human condition of freedom and imprisonment. All three films open with a demonstration of freedom or imprisonment of the characters by depicting technology as a bridge. This bridge fills the gap between these two outcomes by showing the relationship of technology and the effect of it has on human interaction. By showing these correlations, Kieslowski comments on both the connection humans have with technology and the disconnection that results from abandoning technology.
Red is the third and final film in Kieslowski’s trilogy and sums up all three of the films in the opening scene. Starting with a phone connection and showing travel of communication between phone lines, Kieslowski sets up how human interaction between other humans relies heavily on the connection and disconnection of technology. According to Geoff Andrew, author of The ‘Three Colours’ Trilogy, “From its extraordinary virtuoso opening sequence…it’s at once apparent that the film is to be an audacious and original exploration of the hidden forces that affect communication between individuals in the modern world” (Andrew 52). Like Andrew seems to suggest the phone itself demonstrates the ultimate connection/disconnection symbol because a person can either pick up a phone to start a conversation or hang up a phone to end one. Thematically the scene sets up the rest of the film and comments on the previous two films in the series by showing the consequences and benefits of using technology. Looking at Red by itself, the film connects and disconnects people’s relationships with one another. For example a connection between Valentine (Irene Jacob) and Kern (Jean-Louis Trintignant) is shown, while Auguste (Jean-Pierre Lorit) and his girlfriend become disconnected from their relationship.
From the very beginning of the film Blue, Kieslowski plunges the viewer into a world filled with conflict and pain. The opening sequence shows a girl sitting in the back of a car trying to pass the time by playing with a blue candy wrapper and watching cars in a tunnel pass by. The effect of the cars’ headlights already becomes a major part of the film’s narrative. This shot, which lingers on for several seconds provides a commentary on how humans rely on transportation. Society has to move at a fast pace only accomplished by cars. This symbiotic connection with cars is also interesting because several cars are seen passing each other in the film. This points to the fact that the act of driving symbolizes social interaction between humans and a society compelled by technology. As the rest of the scene continues another important shot shows break fluid leaking out of some pipes below the car. “then, in a stationary shot, from beneath the car, of the girl returning (out of focus) from having taken a pee at the roadside, fluid dripping ominously from the brake cable” (Andrew 25). This juxtaposition with the girl in the background running towards the car is crucial. Due to the fact that Kieslowski creates an association of how faulty technology can also affect the lives of humans in a negative way. Ultimately this becomes true as the ending sequence reveals a devastating car crash that leaves only Julie (Juliette Binoche) as a survivor. The movie then can be looked at as technology being a torturous mechanism that imprisons Julie’s own sense of freedom in her mind and that in order for her to escape her suffering she must renounce herself from all forms of interaction, which includes the form of technology. The disconnection that arises from the death of her family proves to be very clear in the film as Kieslowski removes shots of Julie driving a car or watching T.V. However, Julie cannot continue to live her life without the aid of technology and human interaction. Eventually, Julie begins to reconnect with technology and bonds with Olivier (Benoit Regent). Julie’s freedom then relies on her ability to connect with technology in order to love and be loved again. Overall, Blue comments on the fact that disconnecting from the world and technology is only possible through isolation, but isolation becomes impossible because people need relationships in order to live.
Unlike Blue, White is a film that focuses on the constructs of freedom obtained by the connections between humans and technology. Where Blue focused on faulty technology that leads to suffering and imprisonment, White is a film that expresses the liberation that technology can provide people. Right from the start of White this idea is expressed as audience members are shown a suitcase on a conveyor belt. “The first sequence cuts between shots of a large suitcase on an airport conveyor belt, and a man’s feet walking…(this) indicates that there is indeed an important link between luggage and man” (Andrew, 38-39). Already this scene tells important information as it forces the audience to connect to images related to travel and airports. The object of the suitcase itself becomes a symbol within Kieslowski’s film as it invokes the concept of the constant need to travel within a technological society. This is especially true as later the suitcase is revealed to contain the main character Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski), who has to smuggle himself into Poland because he has become a criminal in France. Karol connection with technology also ties him to his relationship with his ex-wife Dominique (Julie Delpy) because all she leaves him with is the suitcase that he is traveling in. Therefore, Karol’s journey in the film is about disconnecting from his current life in France and reconnecting himself with his homeland Poland. By taking this path Karol eventually is able to gain his liberation and control of his own life again.
Kieslowski’s three films are vital in understanding the symbiotic relationship between man and machine. They provide an insight into discovering the complexities of social interaction and the changes that arise due to the use of technology as a part of daily life. In Blue, the film focused on faulty technology to show how disconnecting from technology to obtain freedom is impossible because it requires isolation from the rest of the world. White demonstrated that connection of technology could lead to salvation and a new start. Finally, Red shows how relationships can be connected and disconnected by the use of technology. Everyday there can be separations, but there can also be new connections that form and that is one of the main messages running throughout Kieslowski’s Three Colours films.