Plain, Simple Tom reviews . . . “Three Colours: Red” (1994)

The final part of Kieślowski’s critically acclaimed trilogy stars Irène Jacob as Valentine, a model who accidentally hits a dog with her car one night and soon returns her to her owner, a reclusive retired judge (Jean-Louis Trintignant) who Valentine discovers is eavesdropping on his neighbours’ telephone conversations and although initially disapproving, the two of them gradually form a certain friendship while in the midst of all of this, their actions inadvertently affect the life of Auguste (Jean-Pierre Lorit), a young man studying to be a judge.

The films in the Three Colours Trilogy have strong themes running through them: Blue was about grief, White was about revenge and Red is all about destiny, chance and coincidence and this is mainly achieved by utilising something of a dual narrative – telling the story of our main character, Valentine, but also by looking at the young judge in training, exploring the idea that Valentine’s actions (in particular, hitting the dog at a specific point in time) cause his life to go in a completely new direction, the two of them occasionally passing each other like ships in the night. Certain things in the film may not initially make much sense but it’s all brought together very well by the time the film ends, concluding with a perfect final shot that was cleverly foreshadowed right at the beginning.

The central idea that we’re all connected somehow is hammered home in the final sequence where all of the main characters from the trilogy end up together in exactly the same place at the same time; this is a very nice touch and I enjoyed seeing them all together but personally, I also thought that this was a bit too farfetched for all these characters to be at the same place for no apparent reason. Especially since one of them ended up in jail!

Looking back on the events of the film, it’s clear that Red has a clever story at its heart, showing how one person’s actions can have unforseen repercussions in another’s life and that people’s “stories” are all connected somehow, but while the plot is admittedly original, I’d have to say that it isn’t as engaging or as interesting as the stories of Blue and White and that a lot of the time, it can be a little challenging to figure out just what’s going on and just who’s who, since a lot of the characters look alike and have similar sounding names! Rather than focusing on one character’s story, the film attempts to tell a story about mankind as a whole, perhaps using the main characters as “vessels” for the central themes, rather than three dimensional people with motivations and so forth, all of which makes Red a little bit harder to take an interest in, given that the characters aren’t quite as strong as those from previous instalments and the plot can be a bit tricky to wrap your head around.

Much like Blue and White, there are only a couple of characters to speak of and they’re passionately brought to life by the main group of actors. Continuing the theme of having a unique female front and centre, Irène Jacob is luminous, likeable and soulful as Valentine, starting off very wide-eyed, lively and innocent but later on showing some deep, pained emotions as she embarks on her peculiar journey; Jacob is always interesting to watch but her character isn’t as interesting as it could have been, a little bit of a blank slate, and she isn’t quite as unique or fascinating as Blue‘s Julie or White‘s Dominique. Alongside her, Jean-Louis Trintignant is a solid co-lead as the judge, at first appearing as a curmudgeonly and cantankerous hermit but gradually opening up his life to Valentine, becoming more of a mysterious figure as he discusses the human condition with her. Trintignant delivers a compelling performance using precise facial expressions and his character is the most interesting part of this film, having an aura of mystery about him, since his backstory compellingly mirrors that of the young judge Auguste, and he seems to always know more about events than he lets on, quite possibly being an angel or a prophet or some such.

And of course in true Kieślowski tradition, Red is shot beautifully, its colours are vivid and striking and the music, once again using classical pieces to a wonderful extent, is perfect, confirming the Three Colours Trilogy as a pleasurable and rewarding experience to go through.

A film with an intriguing message about fate and coincidence, the concluding chapter of Kieślowski’s acclaimed trilogy is thoughtfully written and has a fine cast and impeccable design.

★ ★ ★ ★

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