Kieslowski Week: Red

KRZYSZTOF KIESLOWSKI WEEK ON FICTION DAILY

The last of Colors Trilogy, Red, gives us an almost unbearable look at human fragility. It explores the lonely life of an older man, who we learn was once a judge … along with the life of a beautiful young woman.

Of course, the color red gives everything a heightened emotional complexity, and brings a sense of anticipation that is absence in, say, blue, which is more about the inner life, and white more about the outer life.

Red brings them both together, in some ways, the inner and outer life. Yet in the end, the private life determines our outer life, in so many ways. (Red takes as a starting point the French “fraternite,” fraternity or brotherhood, presented by that color in the French flag.)

Valentine is played by Irene Jakob, who also starred in The Double Life of Veronique, an earlier Kieslowski film. It also features writing by Krzysztof Piesiewicz and music by Zbigniew Preisner, his long-time collaborators.

It’s interesting to not that Mr. Piesiewicz is a lawyer. White features a very likable lawyer named Mikolej, and of course this film presents us a judge.

To avoid giving away the plot elements, which are sparse, I’ll say little else about it.

Red (Rouge, Czerwony) was the last theatrical release by Kieslowski. He died in 1996.

Yet I was just in time: Red was my introduction to Kieslowski when, in 1994, I drove myself to Raleigh to see it. (Back in my single-girl days I would often go to Raleigh to see films).

I’ll never forget the experience of seeing the large red scarf blowing in the storm, or the overall power of Kieslowski’s images.

Within 18 months, I was living in another Slavic country in Prague. I attended the Karlovy Vary film festival that summer (1996) where I was among a tiny audience that screened a documentary on Kieslowski. It was in Polish without subtitles!! Who cared. I loved the man. A great artistic romance was born within me.

It’s been 5 years since I’ve seen a movie in a theater, and I will probably never again see a movie on the big screen. It’s partially because of too many bad experiences — focus wrong, gum on screens, talking people.

I just can’t bear those places. Can’t bear the mentality that cheapens the film experience. Can’t bear the feeling that I’ve been abducted by a malevolent force that wants to overwhelm my senses, and deaden my emotional response.

So when I write about Kieslowski, I’m also mourning a bit the innocence he represents for me and for us all. There was a real childlike quality to his filmmaking, tied not a little to the Communist regime’s control.

These days, I watch on my computer, at home, with the dogs and cats. It’s a much saner world here.

At the same time, I wonder what films Mr. Kieslowski would be making if he were with us?

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