on 30 May 2003
First of all, I think people need to get away from the line of thinking that says the Three Colours Trilogy is about liberty equality ansd fraternity. That is a publicity gimmick if ever I saw one. I also think that whichever reviewer said White was the best French film they ever saw needs to have a rethink: the film is almost entirely in Polish and all the actors and crew, with the exception of Julie Delpy, are also Polish.
Red, White and Blue do not hold the exclusive connotations of the French flag's colours. Blue can also be sadness, White can represent innocence or purity or space or snow and red can denote passion...Kieslowski pays with all the many connotations of these colours in his films amd yet very little in them relates to the frenchness people seem to associate with the films. Neither White nor Red take place in France, after all.
Kieslowski's trilogy gets better and better as it progresses, but admittedly, White requires a second or third viewing in order to be fully appreciated. It is the most difficult of the three to understand and yet at the same time it SHOULD be the easiest, since it is an opportunity taken by the director to express himself in his own language, country, culture. And there you have it: a film deciphered with difficulty which expresses to perfection, on one of it's many levels, the position of the foreigner abroad. The easiest parts to decipher are those which take place in french and yet the greater part take place in Polish and the most important in silence. White is the gap or blank space or interlude between Blue and Red. It is also the blank, expressionless language of someone using a language not his own and unable to tap into the wealth of expression contained therein.
on 6 October 2015
Starts off with a great scene between a clown and a businessman and never lets up with relentless misery and then great relief and satisfaction. Expertly plotted, written, acted and shot; Three Colours White is an iconic film that should be in the cinematic canon forever.
A droll.black comedy that talks of the personal and political adjustments of the new Europe."We're European now" Karol's(Zamachowski) brother tells him when he gets back to the post-Soviet capitalist Poland,and sees a flashing sign now outside the hairdresser's.After the uplift of Blue this film is very deadpan,sardonic and edgy with its predominant character Karol's(Charlie after Chaplin)need to overcome impotence,language barriers(Dominique his wife is French,he's Polish) and divorce while still in love with Dominique(Delphy).White stands in the tricolour for personal and political equality.We get flashbacks to the wedding scene with Dominique emerging from Church dressed in white and the pigeons all flying up,we also get some very snowy landscapes in Karol's native Poland,there's also an alabaster figure which reminds him of Dominique,which gets chipped and broken.The couple are estranged and apart and we get to see little of Delphy as a character as this is more about the effects she has on Karol's life.Karol is a hairdresser and gets back to Poland in a suitcase with the help of Mikolaj(Gajos),a man who offers him a job to put an end to a would-be suicide's life.Karol transforms himself from destitute to powerful yet warm-hearted: his aim to get Domique back as in get back together with her and to get even with her.He reawakens Dominique's love through a cunning scheme.Kieslowski lays bare the impoverished ethics of the new money-obsessed Poland and also suggests one can never go back.This is a cruel film whose coolness yet harbours some embers of humanity and a lyrical admission of the power of love.Zamochowski is brilliant.Preisner's score is superb.
on 19 January 2003
A fantastic film. Funny, original and deeply moving thanks to a beautiful twist to the plot at the end. A polish hairdreser is thrown out my his cruel wife, has a new friend smuggle him back to Poland and he starts rebuilding his life untill the desire to extract revenge on his wife becomes too much.
While I disagree with the person who claimed it was dull, there is a particular type of film that suit's everybody and this is the most accessible of the three and prehaps the most watchable arthouse film about. But I would advise that if you watch one, you really should watch them all.Very funny and moving. The best French film I have ever watched.
on 31 May 2011
This is the second part in Krystof Kieslowski's Three Colours trilogy, looking at the idea of equality. The story focusses on the fall and rise of Karol, a Polish hairdresser whose world is destroyed when his French wife divorces him, leaving him homeless and broke in Paris.
He is given a mote of hope of returning to Poland when a man identifies the tune he was playing on a piece of paper and a comb as being Polish, and offers Karol passage back to Poland, on the proviso that he kill a man who wants to be killed but lacks the courage to commit suicide. Karol, faced the moral dilemma, agrees to the deal, and smuggles himself inside a suitcase.
In a slight swipe at the airline industry, the suitcase gets lost and Karol finds himself home, but isolated. I shan't spoil it by telling you what he ultimately does with regard to the moral dilemma, though the story does progress beyond this. Through some new found-cunning, he engineers a windfall for himself and establishes a good business, though also creates some enemies at the same time. His enduring love for his ex-wife remains and he finds a way of bringing her to Poland so that she can share in his success. But she too is left with a moral dilemma (the details of which I shall not spoil) and she can show that she still loves him by an act of self-sacrifice, or she can leave him in Poland as she previously left him in Paris. The final scene of the film portrays the consequence of her decision in a wordless series of images that speak a thousand words.
At all times, the film is whisper, rather than a shout, and so the experience of watching this compared to a Hollywood blockbuster is like the difference between sitting by a quiet lake and sitting on a roller-coaster. It will not be everyone's taste, though I enjoyed it immensely.
on 1 January 2012
White seems lightweight when compared to Blue or Red. A black comedy which does not hold much appeal. Neither of the two leading characters is attractive, nor acted particularly well. I will keep it as an example of Kieslowski's (a great director's) work, but it did not grip me or move me as the other two films did. I hope that I will change my opinion in subsequent viewings, but somehow I do not think I will.
on 26 November 2004
This is one of the finest films ever made. Don't be put off by the humour; this film has extraordinary depth but the director's touch is so light that you hardly notice you're getting dragged down into some pretty serious territory. The profoundest love and justice emerge in this seemingly slight film, and all in all it's a very moving experience that may remain with you while dozens of other films are forgotten
on 28 March 2005
The second in Kieslowski's 'Three Colours Trilogy', the camera seeking out white imagery, the director pursuing themes of equality, and a film with an altogether lighter touch than the first in the series, 'Blue'. This is, in some respects, a charming little black comedy; in others, it is a bleak commentary on life.
Karol Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski) is an award winning Polish hairdresser who has met and married a beautiful French model (Julie Delpy). They are so very much in love he cannot consummate their marriage and she determines to rob him of every other aspect of his material life and personal dignity. The film opens with Karol on his way to receive French justice - everyone is equal before the law, but Karol needs an interpreter to understand what is happening, has his life exposed to public scrutiny, and leaves homeless, with nothing but a large trunk containing little but his hairdressing certificates. He will soon find himself pursued by the law, with no passport and no money to return to Poland. Fortunately, he meets another Pole who helps him flee France and return to his homeland ... where he is immediately robbed of what little he has left. Karol sets out to rebuild his life, with scant regard for law or morals.
"White" is a charming, funny little film with bleak moments and an enigmatic ending. Equality, Kieslowski suggests, is an illusion. Power is what counts, power is what modern societies respect. Equality is an illusion. If you lose your status - even as a man before the woman you love - you are equal to nothing.
And, while in "Blue" and in "Red", the films are dominated by their leading actresses (particularly Juliette Binoche in "Blue"), here Julie Delpy is reduced to a minor role - central to the plot, but marginalised at the same time. The director of a film, it seems, can reduce a character in status in exactly the same way society can pay lip service to equality yet spit upon those who are less equal than others.
Kieslowski had worked with Zbigniew Zamachowski before, using him in some of his earlier Polish films. The pair have an evident rapport. Kieslowski uses the bleakness of winter landscapes and cityscapes to emphasise the hairdresser's plight. Delpy remains a cold, distant figure who attracts the audience's disapproval (possibly even hatred) as her spurned husband sets about turning the tables. She will end up receiving equal treatment at the hands of the Polish authorities as she endures the humiliating equality of pay-back. Yet the film ends on an optimistic note - enigmatically so - an optimism which will be consummated in "Red".
"White" is perhaps the weakest of the three films in the trilogy. Despite its bleak content, it offers some light relief between the intensity of the other two films. The camerawork is stylistically very different, the use of music is less pronounced, the characters less thoroughly drawn, the editing creates a more staccato narrative. The overall effect is to detach the viewer from engagement with the characters. Your sympathies for Karol and his cold, cold wife undergo some transition in the course of the film - perhaps they do end up as equals at the end.
An enjoyable film, the DVD offers some excellent extras in the form of a masterclass with Kieslowski on aspects of the film, and an interview with Julie Delpy, amongst others.
on 8 March 2004
I watched 'White' long after 'Blue' and 'Red' because most of those who'd seen it said it wasn't up to the standard of the other two films. I disagree. Apart from the obvious parallels of the different kind of prisons Polish Karol and French Dominique find themselves in - both unable to speak French and Polish respectively, but Karol free and penniless in France and Dominique rich but jailed in Poland, we have the brutal fairy-tale of Karol's arrival in Poland in a suitcse, his quick rags-to-riches (complete with Mafia-style hairstyle - he has been, after all, a hair-dresser) and his growing friendship and interaction with Mikolaj to help us believe in his transformation from naive dreamer to slick schemer.
I am puzzled, however, by everyone's interpretation of his 'revenge'. Having moved from impotence to power in every other field of his life, I think he realises that the only way he can, not only make but also keep Dominique's love (he was after all better than the man he'd heard her with over the phone)is to subject her to the same idealisation of his power that he has of her beauty. Dominique's sadistic streak towards him disappears after his potent love-making and her realisation that he has knowingly turned the situation between them upside-down. Her attitude to him from the prison window is loving and submissive - in the silent 'white' film of the wedding, his face appears for the first time in an assertive kiss. And his tears in the silent 'white' prison yard, though they might weep for her physical absence, are joined by a smile of knowing he has secured the means of holding her forever - NOT because she is jailed, but because he has mastered her. It is NOT what he wanted, but what she needed in order to love him. It is NOT revenge but a mutation which is the ultimate proof of the love she needed.
There is, of course, more in the film (e.g. its study of various forms of death), but, if Kieslowski needed more than 1,000 words, I do too. By the way, Karol learns Dominique's language, but at least by the end of the film, she hasn't yet learnt his.
This is a beautiful film but it doesn't answer questions that I liked to have answered. Like, why is that bird so cheesed off with her ex? With barely any flashback used at all, we are in danger of not caring about her. This is a film that gives you a story but cheats you out of directions you hoped it would go in. The result is a stylish little French number that is also mediocre. For me it lacked any kind of profundity, save the simulacrum of it it attempts to create. That said, it does capture life post the revolution in Poland well.