- The Three Colors Trilogy, directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski, explores themes of liberty, equality, and fraternity through a visually stunning and emotionally rich cinematic experience.
- Each movie in the trilogy delves deep into its respective color symbol and dissects the issues related to it, offering a powerful meditation on the human condition.
- The trilogy’s cinematography plays a crucial role in setting the tone and conveying the messages, using color palettes and visual motifs to enhance the overall experience.
The Three Colors Trilogy is one of the most stylish and sensitive unofficial trilogies out there, standing on the same level as Linklater’s highly romantic Before trilogy. These films are directed by Polish arthouse filmmaker Krzysztof Kieślowski, also known for The Double Life of Véronique and the Dekalog miniseries, which ,similarly to the Three Colors Trilogy, establishes a powerful allegory by meditating on each of the Ten Commandments throughout 10 distinct episodes.
The Three Colors Trilogy is a movie trilogy no one should live without. It consists of Blue, White, and Red, each movie focusing on one of the three colors of the French national flag and what they symbolize. Blue stands for liberty, white is equality, and red is fraternity. Kieślowski delves deep into these themes, dissecting the issues inherent to them with a visual spectacle filled with emotion and melancholy.
How The Three Colors Trilogy Deconstructs the Symbols of the French Flag
The issues addressed in the Three Colors Trilogy are much more intimate and humanist than political, but typical of other Kieślowski movies, the filmmaker delivers an incisive look into how society works, the way people interact with each other, and the consequences of each small action. The first movie in the trilogy immediately sets the tone for the others; Three Colors: Blue takes the revered concept of liberty and ties it with the power of free will, showing that being absolutely free is often linked with being lonely.
The term “feeling blue” has never been so accurately portrayed onscreen. Every shot is meticulously planned to give space to the blue in its color palette, and the color will eventually emerge in the magnitude of the sky or in water, or sometimes faintly in the background on a billboard or car. In a few instances, the color will not even be seen, but its presence will be clearly felt through the expression on Juliette Binoche’s face, reminding the audience that the movie is all about how she perceives her own fragile longing in a fleeting state of melancholy.
The cinematography dictates the tone of the movies and plays an equally crucial role in each one of them. Three Colors: White is both the darkest and funniest of the trilogy, offering a dynamic contrast between the purity that the color white usually evokes with the menace of impersonality, and subsequently, complete indifference. In Three Colors: Red, the overwhelming presence of such a vibrant color is nearly contagious, drawing the characters together in unexpected ways.
Three Colors: Blue follows Binoche as Julie, a woman suffering from the recent loss of her talented husband and young daughter in a car accident. In Three Colors: White, a Polish immigrant in France finds himself without job or country when his wife divorces him, and plots a risky scheme to get back at her. Three Colors: Red is the most joyful of the three, but not without a good hint of melancholy. It revolves around the unusual friendship between a young model and a retired judge who spends his days secretly listening to his neighbors’ phone conversations.
Although the three narratives are seemingly unrelated, they are all connected by a nation and the constraints of everyday life. If anything, Kieślowski wants the audience to stop for a minute and wonder how volatile, yet intrinsic concepts such as liberty, equality, and fraternity are, and he achieves that with a set of characters that are always on the verge of giving in to the mysteries of life or just staying utterly distant from them.
The Three Colors Trilogy Is an Unparalleled Cinematic Feat, and Its Creator Knows It
The symbolism of the Three Colors Trilogy has been the target of debate ever since the first movie came out in 1993, but an overlooked quality of the trilogy is how self-aware it is in terms of cinematic property. Kieślowski liked to call himself a pessimist, but his most prominent characteristic was self-awareness. In a line of thought reminiscent of Dziga Vertov, a pioneering Soviet filmmaker who believed the lens of a camera could function as an extension of the human eye, Kieślowski always seemed keen on exploring with his camera what was unaccessible in human reality.
In one of his most obscure movies, Camera Buff, he portrays a man and his camera becoming one. It follows an amateur filmmaker who gradually begins to receive recognition for his recordings and becomes obsessed with capturing every minute of his life on camera, causing him to confuse reality and fiction. In Blind Chance, the young Witek runs to catch a train. The movie unfolds with three variations of this fateful moment and how Witek’s life could drastically change with each result of such an ordinary incident. Here, Kieślowski is showing viewers in a darkly comical fashion how the lens of the camera can even breach time and space.
Finally, in The Three Colors Trilogy, the immersive color palette of each movie is usually the first target of compliments as it facilitates the poetical message of each narrative with clear visual insights. The way the haunting blue of Three Colors: Blue envelops and constantly reminds the main character of her inertia before the world is undoubtedly beautiful, but it’s blatantly superficial. And that’s precisely what Kieślowski aimed at. The superficiality of the Three Colors Trilogy’s cinematography, amplifying each given color, shows how the constancy of the colors, that is, the symbols discussed, are portrayed in the film because it’s merely a film.
The filmmaker expects the viewer to realize these colors also pop up individually in their lives all the time, every day and week — they’re just not as poetically framed. The Three Colors Trilogy carries the legacy of proving once and for all that it’s only in cinema that feelings can be filmed.