Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Day 62: And So To Red


The red (rouge) of the French flag is symbolic of fraternity. Kieslowski sets his story in Geneva, as I understand it, because he wanted another French speaking location, another country outside of France; as unphotogenic as Geneva is, Kieslowski, I guess, had his reasons.

Three Colours Red is a film that I have to return to again and again and again to mine it’s rewards, to pick up on and discover the small and delightful hidden treasures that this filmmaker has planted along the way for me, not only in this one feature but in the two that have gone before. In Red he weaves the three films of his Three Colours Trilogy together in a cataclysmic ending.

There are three central characters in Red: Auguste, a law student (about to take exams to become a judge) who climbs up the balcony of an apartment block to catch his girlfriend, Karin, in the act of making love to another man. Kern, a retired judge who sits at home with his sophisticated telecommunications equipment, eavesdropping on neighbours‘ telephone conversations (like some sort of God on high). And Valentine, a photographic model with a possessive boyfriend in England.

As the film unfolds the three lives intersect and “what if” questions - a favourite pastime of Kieslowski’s - are thrown up. The relationship that develops between the the judge, Kern, and the younger Valentine, begs the question “what if these two had met at a different time and a different place when both were maybe more the same age?” The parallels between the retired Judges’ life and the life of the would-be judge, the much younger Auguste, cause us to wonder if this is not one and the same life being played out, such are the similarities of what Auguste encounters and what happened to Kern.

Three Colours Red and a previous film of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s, The Double Life Of Veronique, charter the what-if storytelling ground that was later adopted in the film Sliding Doors, that starred Gwyneth Paltrow. “Did somebody (high above) bring somebody to life at the wrong moment? Should Valentine have been called to life forty years earlier, or the judge, Kern, forty years later? These two would probably have been very happy together”. These are the concerns, the thoughts that Danusia Stok’s book on Kieslowski raises, that I always ponder when I return to this film. “The question is: has a mistake been committed somewhere? And if it has then is there anybody in a position to rectify it?” A god?

Day #62 Tip: You must be the God of your small world
Playwrights like Harold Pinter and David Mamet are said to have known the motivation behind every comma and every full stop in their plays. Every word has a meaning and a reason to be, nothing is there by accident or by chance.

Writers are the very Gods of their own small world, perhaps that’s one of the reasons that we like writing, to play God?

I know that I’ve talked about this here before, but calling to mind some of the big ideas in and behind Three Colours Red, it’s called to mind again and I wanted to mention it again before I bid a temporary adieu to maestro Kieslowski on these pages.

I must know the motivation behind everything in my screenplay. As Robert Mckee’s mother told him: “so God knows the name of every sparrow that falls”.

It is so tempting to talk about the moving end of the the Three Colours Trilogy that comes in the final sequence of Red, but I can’t, but it seems to have something to do with God, and Kern (the retired judge) and the god-like powers that we bestow on judges. What I can say is this: at the climax of Three Colours Red, Kieslowski brings together the main players of the three feature films - Bleu, Blanc & Rouge - in a way that many other filmmakers often try to do these days in neat, often trite and clich├ęd ways, as though tying a completely inappropriate and candified ribbon on a present.

Kieslowski seems more interested and pre-occupied with the fates and futures of his characters, like a god would be, rather than rounding things off nicely. I’m due for another viewing of the three films, it’s been a while since I’ve watched them and I know that I’ll discover so much more than I’ve already gleaned from them.

The Three Colours Trilogy, with its’ themes, motifs and ideas born in the fierce crucible of the French Revolution of 1789-99, are elegant, poignant and virtuoso pieces of storytelling, a “thrilling hymn to the resilience of compassion in the face of adversity.” I, for one, am always in need of that hymn.

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