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A film about compassion and justice,
This review is from: Three Colours: Red [DVD]  (DVD)
"Red", third in Kieslowski's "Three Colours" trilogy, pursuing the theme of fraternity, and perhaps the director's most visceral take on the three-word mantra of the French Revolution. "Blue" gave us liberty, "White" equality. "Red", then, the colour of blood, the shared life force; red, the colour of revolution and revolutionary brotherhood.
But these three human ideals are hardly valued by modern society. The fraternity we see here is partial at best. What Kieslowski offers us are individuals intent on pursuing their own self interest, careless of the effects on the ones they love - and therefore totally oblivious to wider humanity. Fraternity? read, triumph of self-interest!
Valentine (Irene Jacob) is a student and model in Geneva: successful, intelligent, gifted, beautiful ... yet she is sublimating herself to a lover we never see ... a lover whose phonecalls are a litany of jealous demands that she reassure him she is not cheating on him. Valentine, innocently in love, alone, living only for the moment her lover will return, is confronted by the discovery that her brother is using drugs ... and then by the realisation that she has just run over a dog. Here is a young woman who can show compassion - she tenderly lifts the dog from the road and goes to seek help.
She returns the dog to its owner - a retired judge (magnificently played by Jean-Louis Trentignant). The judge is brutally cold and detached from life, but, as their relationship builds, he introduces her to the realities of modern life - a world in which husbands cheat on wives, lovers reject, people treat one another with indifference as they pursue their own self-interests and fantasies.
It's a bleak commentary on the contemporary world, but a commentary which is warmed, not just by the extensive use of red filters and red imagery, but the growing warmth and understanding between Jacob and Trentignant. The young and the old, the female and the male - different people can communicate. The past has lessons for the present. True fraternity is in respect for one another, for the other's rights and feelings and dignity.
While in "White" we had the ironic image of equality before the law, here we have a retired judge who is intimating that fraternity is a matter of justice - it is about treating strangers with respect and honesty, but the reality is that we cheat on the people we love ... so what chance fraternity, other than in the judgement of the law, for it clearly cannot be left to people.
Beautifully shot and edited, this is the one film in the trilogy where two actors are given equal power and potency in their roles. Red is in their blood - they are subject to human frailty, they can make mistakes, they can err, but they are also capable of understanding and warmth. The relationship between Jacob and Trentignant is powerfully constructed and woven together with compassion.
A wonderful film, it culminates in an explanation of why the central characters in the trilogy are all so intimately related. The ending, beautifully juxtaposing Irene Jacob against a red backdrop, is optimistic, is perhaps a statement about the possibilities of fraternity.
The DVD offers a master class from Kieslowski on the making of the film, and an interview with Irene Jacob, amongst others.