‘Three Colours: Red’ turns 25: An ode to its master Krzysztof Kieślowski

A screenshot of ‘Three Colours: Red’  

Valentine (Irene Jacob) is a student who works as a part-time model. Her fate changes when she encounters Joseph Kern (Jean-Louis Trintignant of Amour fame), a retired judge who lives in a lonely building, cut away from human interactions. There’s another subplot about an up-and-coming lawyer Auguste (Jean-Pierre Lorit). Soon, the three stories converge and intertwine at one point, in a mysterious, yet beautiful way. This is the premise of Three Colours: Red, the final instalment of the Three Colours trilogy preceded by Blue and White, directed by celebrated Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieslowski. Red marked Kieslowski’s last film before his untimely death in 1996. The theme of Red is about interconnections in life — one of the recurring phenomena in Kieslowski’s oeuvre, particularly The Double Life of Veronique. In many ways, Red can be seen as a spiritual successor to the latter.

A powerful storyteller, Kieslowski was obsessed with telling stories of individuals — about their struggle to come to terms with their sexuality, battling loneliness, adapting to rapid globalisation and so on — amid a strong political backdrop. Though known for his pessimistic influence, Kieslowski was deeply philosophical in his approach and Red is testimony to that. As it completes 25 years today, MetroPlus chats with two of Kollywood’s Kieslowski fans.

Making peace with cinema

Despite her busy schedule, Suhasini Maniratnam agrees to do a quick phone interview for one man: Kieslowski. She first discovered his name when she was on a trip abroad with Mani Ratnam. “Mani and I have always been on the lookout for good filmmakers. We used to visit HMV store to pick up international films. Once, the store guy casually mentioned his name. And we bought all his films,” she says, adding that she still has a Dekalog DVD in her cupboard.

Suhasini Mani Ratnam

Suhasini Mani Ratnam   | Photo Credit: K_MURALI_KUMAR

Kieslowski, according to Suhasini, was the “only filmmaker I had no disagreements with”. For, she was particularly drawn towards his interpretation of life, love, sexuality, and spirituality. “His films were a reflection of life and he did that in a multi-dimensional way. In the sense that it leaves you with great satisfaction. It’s like watching your life unfold on a giant mirror,” she explains. Among Kieslowski’s films, Suhasini considers Blue and Dekalog to be intellectually stimulating. But at the same time, she says she loved Red in parts, “especially the climax scene, where the characters from the previous two films make a blink-and-miss cameo”. She goes on to add: “It reminded me of a novel written by Mario Vargas Llosa in which the lead characters undergo something similar. But Kieslowski handled it with much more clarity in Red.”

It’s tempting to know if Mani Ratnam is a fan of Kieslowski, for his Ayutha Ezhuthu, too, had shades of red, blue and green, thereby reflecting the emotional state of its three lead characters. Was he ever influenced by Three Colours? “Mani is more of a Kurosawa fan than Kieslowski. He blindly worships the former,” she laughs. Suhasini, by her own admission, became a compulsive fan after she caught up with Blue. So much so that she paid a tribute to the master in her directorial début Indira, where she replicated a specific shot from Blue. What scene was that? Like the Polish filmmaker, she leaves it for the readers to find out.

Cinematographer Chezhiyan

Cinematographer Chezhiyan   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

A go-to master

Mention Kieslowski to To Let director Chezhiyan, and his immediate response is: “I’m glad that somebody is writing about my favourite master.” The cinematographer-turned-filmmaker came across Kieslowski when he was working under PC Sreeram. A Short Film About Love was one of the earliest films that deeply affected Chezhiyan, urging him to write an analytical piece in a Tamil magazine. Be it The Double Life of Veronique or Three Colours, Kieslowski’s films have largely employed inventive use of cinematography. A scene that comes to mind in Red is when Valentine meets Joseph for the second time at his house. It’s a static shot, but the camera swiftly pans out to show two broken pieces of glass. Chezhiyan says he finds Red to be far superior in terms of its cinematography. “A lot of techniques have come into play today. It’s marvellous that they achieved it back then. When I watched it, I was fascinated by its meditative approach. Look at how he [Kieslowski] filmed their third meeting. Everything, including the camera movements, framing, and the use of lights, elevated the overall mood of that scene.”

Decoding the colours
  • Kieslowski’s films have won several international awards. Three Colours: Blue won the Golden Lion Award at Venice Film Festival.
  • His most popular works include Dekalog, A Short Film About Love, The Double Life of Veronique and Three Colours.
  • The three colours — blue, white and red — are hues of the French flag, representing three political ideas: liberty, equality and fraternity.

Kieslowski was adept at dealing with subtexts throughout his career and was an advocate of minimalism. In Red, for instance, when Joseph reveals that he acquitted a sailor by mistake, the scene ends with a freeze shot of stones. Did it imply that he was throwing stones from a glass house? We never know. Chezhiyan, however, feels that revisiting the masters’ films is the equivalent of spending hours observing a painting, for they’re bound to draw multiple interpretations. He adds: “When you dig deeper and try to analyse the film, you tend to miss the obvious. Every shot served a purpose in Kieslowski’s films. It all depends on the eyes of the beholder. Trying to find an explanation for each shot is close to disrespecting the filmmaker.”

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Printable version | May 6, 2021 6:00:50 PM |

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