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Red (1994)


Chance Encounters, Permanent Consequences: The Cinema of Krzysztof Kieslowski, Pt. 2

4 Mondays, January 22 to February 12, 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm
Instructor: Maurizio Giammarco, Ph.D., Intellectual Heritage Program, Temple University
Location: Multimedia Room
Cost: $100 for members, $125 for non-members
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A filmmaker preoccupied with similarities and paradoxes, Krzysztof Kieslowski's own career evolved over the years from one centered on political realities to one of metaphysical contemplation. A powerful storyteller, Kieslowski undermines the ordered world of his documentary-like depictions with the complex, often disillusioning lives of his central protagonists—portraits that alternate between pessimistic deconstruction and an affection for human resilience. Nowhere is this more evident than in The Double Life of Veronique (1991) and the Three Colors trilogy (1993/1994).

The Double Life of Veronique, written by Kieslowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz, blends a powerful combination of simplicity and complexity, exploring such themes as identity, love, fate, human intuition, and free will, through the characters of Weronika, a Polish choir soprano, and her double, Veronique, a French music teacher. The two women do not know each other, and yet they share a bond, both mysterious and emotional, that transcends language and geography. Kieslowski defined the subject matter of this film by stating that “the realm of superstitions, fortune-telling, presentiments, intuition, dreams, all this is the inner life of a human being, and all this is the hardest thing to film.” Remarkably, Kieslowski is able to do just that, through the highly stylized cinematography of Slawomir Idziak, who uses bold colors and camera filters to create an ethereal atmosphere, along with the evocative music of Zbigniew Preisner (given the fictional name of Van den Budenmayer in the film), which becomes an integral narrative element. As a result, The Double Life of Veronique encourages uncertainty and analysis in its examination of coincidences, fate, parallel lives, and human relationships, creating a mysterious, spiritual world that affirms Kieslowski's belief that there must be more beyond what we can see.

Such preoccupations are also at work in the Three Colors trilogy, comprised of Blue (1993), White (1994), and Red (1994), the colors of the French flag. The narrative of each film is loosely based on the three political ideals in the motto of the French Republic: liberty, equality, and fraternity. But as with Kieslowski's treatment of the Ten Commandments in the Dekalog, the dramatization of these principles is often ambiguous and ironic. The trilogy shifts from high tragedy to low comedy to intense drama in a world of happenstance. By turns poignant, sensuous, haunting, and mysterious, the trilogy also offers a portrait of anxiety, skepticism, and hope about contemporary Europe itself.

Blue, starring Juliette Binoche, begins with a car crash on a remote highway, witnessed by a teenage boy who will later make contact with the only survivor. The fatalities from the car crash are a celebrated composer and his young child, while the composer's wife, badly hurt, remains alive. When she finally recovers, she sells everything she owns, and lives as a recluse in Paris. The color blue dominates the film's palette, from the light of the city at dusk to the glow from the swimming pool she visits to exercise, and to exorcize the demons of her memory.

White, starring Julie Delpy, focuses on Karol, an immigrant Polish hairdresser living in Paris whose wife, Dominique, is divorcing him because he could not consummate the marriage. Nevertheless, obsessed with his beautiful ex-wife, Karol devises a plan to return to Poland, become wealthy, and reconcile with Dominique. White is the comedy of the trilogy, a brutally satiric take on equality as seen through the cold light of Polish winter.

Red, starring Irene Jacob, concentrates on the meeting between Valentine, a student and part-time fashion model in Switzerland, and Joseph (Jean-Louis Trintignant), a bitter, retired judge who spends his days eavesdropping on his neighbor's phone calls, seemingly in an effort to ascertain the “truth” about the human experience. Through a simple twist of fate, they meet, and although their interaction is fraught with conflict and judgment, they eventually become friends and confidantes. The building intensity of their relationship, the ideas they discuss, and the settings they share, are all informed by a rich red color scheme, evoking love, anger, and passion. After completing the trilogy, Kieslowski observed, “I have said all I need to say on film. Red is my summation.”

The films in this trilogy are concerned with the idea of chance versus free will, as characters ask whether fortune or fate has led them to certain music, objects, and people. What appears in Red are themes that reverberate throughout the trilogy: the ceaseless pain of love; the certainty of deceit; the role of fate; the captivation of voyeurism; the conflicts between men and women; and the desire to throw everything away, including one's own identity, in an attempt to start again. Kieslowski engages with these themes in a metaphorical way, making Blue, White, and Red, much like The Double Life of Veronique, powerful works set in a mysterious, spiritual world of coincidences and parallels, in which our souls are linked to the past, present, and future.
Sessions · Click to add to calendar
  • Monday, January 22
    6:30pm 2018-01-22 18:30:00 2018-01-22 21:30:00 America/New_York Chance Encounters, Permanent Consequences: The Cinema of Krzysztof Kieslowski, Pt. 2 http://brynmawrfilm.org/education/class.php?id=2228 Bryn Mawr Film Institute, Bryn Mawr, PA
  • Monday, January 29
    6:30pm 2018-01-29 18:30:00 2018-01-29 21:30:00 America/New_York Chance Encounters, Permanent Consequences: The Cinema of Krzysztof Kieslowski, Pt. 2 http://brynmawrfilm.org/education/class.php?id=2228 Bryn Mawr Film Institute, Bryn Mawr, PA
  • Monday, February 5
    6:30pm 2018-02-05 18:30:00 2018-02-05 21:30:00 America/New_York Chance Encounters, Permanent Consequences: The Cinema of Krzysztof Kieslowski, Pt. 2 http://brynmawrfilm.org/education/class.php?id=2228 Bryn Mawr Film Institute, Bryn Mawr, PA
  • Monday, February 12
    6:30pm 2018-02-12 18:30:00 2018-02-12 21:30:00 America/New_York Chance Encounters, Permanent Consequences: The Cinema of Krzysztof Kieslowski, Pt. 2 http://brynmawrfilm.org/education/class.php?id=2228 Bryn Mawr Film Institute, Bryn Mawr, PA