Three Colours: Red and The Importance of Connection - VRGyani News and Media

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Monday, September 13, 2021

Three Colours: Red and The Importance of Connection

As Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colours: Red, the conclusion to the filmmaker’s Three Colours trilogy begins, we witness the sight of a person tapping numbers on a telephone keypad. It may not sound like the most riveting thing in the world, but it turns out to be the perfect precursor to a visual manifestation of the movie’s core theme. After the number is dialed, the camera pans over the wire that connects the phone to the wall and, by proxy, to the larger world outside. Then, the camera dives into the wall to reveal hordes of wires that stretch under the ocean, across continents, and unite countless other peoples. We’re all tied together through means that we don’t even think about on an average day. This is the crux of Three Colours: Red. Whereas previous installments in this trilogy concerned themselves with loss and the reasons for living, Red is preoccupied with how we’re all connected in ways big and small. No man is an island, no matter how much certain characters in this movie may wish they were.

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Kieślowski’s fascination with inexplicably connected human beings is also exemplified by how Red concerns itself with two seemingly random people, Valentine Dussaut (Irene Jacob), and Auguste Bruner (Jean-Pierre Lorit). Aside from dogs playing a big part in their lives and living near one another, there doesn’t appear to be much overlap here between these two individuals. But as Red goes on, it reveals that there’s a purpose to the potentially pointless spotlight on Valentine and August. Specifically, Auguste is a character who has a lot of connections with another critical figure in Red, Joseph Kern (Jean-Louis Trintignant).

Joseph was not only once a judge but also someone who fell in love quite easily. But in the years since a woman he loved passed away, he has spent his days in isolation, stewing in a bleak view of humanity. He doesn’t even care when Valentine brings home Rita, his Malinois dog. Valentine might as well have been a magazine salesman with the flippant way Joseph treats her. The weary presence conveyed by Trinitgnant makes it apparent that this character embodies the result of isolating oneself from connecting with others for so long. Sure, you may avoid further heartbreak, like the kind that so rocked Joseph’s world. But you just become a shell of your former self unaware of glorious things right in front of your face, like Rita being pregnant with a litter of puppies.

This is how Joseph becomes a mirror figure to Auguste, who is going through personal events similar to the ones Joseph experienced years earlier, including a lover cheating on him with another man. At one point, it appears Auguste is headed down the same path as Joseph in abandoning all other people to heal from heartbreak when he abandons his own dog on the side of the road. The sight of Auguste’s dog just looking around frantically once his owner departs is heartbreaking, a harrowing symbol of the consequences of abruptly cutting off connections with others that Kieślowski gets across without a word of dialogue.

Moving back to Joseph, the hermit’s only connection with the outside world is through eavesdropping on his neighbors. This is a self-serving shell of connection, a warped version of the communication practice seen in the opening scene of the film. Phone conversations are supposed to unite two people, not be a source of entertainment for an unknown spectator. Through constant exchanges with Valentine, though, Joseph begins to return and connect with the people around him. This isn’t always through pleasant means, such as when he confesses to his neighbors about his eavesdropping activities and is promptly involved in a class-action lawsuit. But Kieślowski makes it apparent that even this form of connecting with others is helping Joseph’s soul.

This complexity is what truly makes Three Colours: Red such a fascinating contemplative exercise. The entire movie is conscious of the fact that being connected with others doesn’t automatically result in pleasant dynamics nor does it prevent you from feeling painful emotions like heartbreak. But it’s still a necessary part of being alive. Our actions have consequences on others whether we realize it or not. To stuff one’s head in the sand and ignore that, as Joseph did at the start of Red, can only lead to despair.

The presence of such constant underlying connections even extends to the production design, which frequently employs the color red. This is a visual trait established in the two prior entries in the Three Colours trilogy, Blue and White, which also featured a recurring color creeping into the backdrops of its respective characters. Here in Red, though, it takes on a whole new meaning as the recurring use of red is utilized to show underlying unity in these disparate characters. Their lives may seem wholly apart, but the way that the color red finds its way into all their storylines reminds the viewer that we’re all connected.

Such connections also inform the climax of Red, which sees Valentine heading off on a trip with her boyfriend to the English Channel, where Joseph’s deceased lover perished. The parallels between former and current important people in Joseph’s life aren’t the only way connections are reinforced here. That element also becomes apparent when Joseph, in the wake of discovering Valentine’s cruise ship had gotten into a terrible accident, watches video footage of survivors being guided out of the tragedy by law enforcement. To his relief, Valentine is there while the viewer also witnesses Auguste walking onto the shore alongside Valentine.

Also emerging from this wreck? The lead characters of the preceding Three Colours movies. The likes of Julie (Juliette Binoche) of Blue and Karol Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski) from White, among other established figures, also come out soaking wet but alive. This is what has ended up providing the most concrete unity between the otherwise disparate scenarios and lives chronicled throughout the Three Colours trilogy, the fact that all the protagonists were involved in a tragedy at sea. Here in this ending, Kieślowski quietly suggests that unity between human beings can also manifest in ways far beyond our control.

There was never any hint in the preceding Three Colours titles that characters like Karol Karol would be heading out to the sea, but here they are at the end of Red, all shaken up alongside Valentine about everything that’s happened on this unforgettable day. This provides a culmination for how Kieślowski’s has spent the entirety of Red showing the various ways we’re all connected, whether it’s through phone lines, conscious choices to reach out to others, or horrific tragedies.

Connecting with other human beings is rarely easy or devoid of mess. It’s complicated and inevitably will involve your heart getting tossed around like a shoe in the washer. But to avoid those kinds of connections is to avoid living, especially in a world that, as Red’s opening scene shows, is already connected right underneath our feet. Krzysztof Kieślowski’s didn’t just make a great finale to a trilogy with Red. He also crafted an ode to the vital ways connecting with others consciously and unconsciously shapes our being.

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