I have always been attracted to trilogies. In fact, a lot of my favorite pieces of art (not exclusive to film) are either single works belonging to a trilogy or entire trilogies themselves. While trilogies are most common nowadays in film and literature, it now seems as though they are becoming extinct due to the continued multiplication of sequels. Even looking at Empire’s list of “The 33 Greatest Movie Trilogies”, which was published in 2010, you will notice that a handful of the listed trilogies are now tetralogies or beyond. However, on this list of primarily mainstream flicks, you will also notice a few trilogies that perhaps feel out of place. One such trilogy is Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colors trilogy (1993-1994).
Broken up into Blue, White, and Red, the Three Colors trilogy is based loosely on the national motto of France: Liberté, égalité, fraternité (liberty, equality, fraternity). Each film follows one of these subjects of the motto, but the priority of the trilogy lies within the lives of the characters. Therefore, while there is a story being told in each film, I find that the compelling significance of these films is how packed they are with a range of human emotion. Remember those charts in elementary school that illustrated some of the basic human emotions, asking kids how they are feeling? To me, this trilogy uses one of those charts as a bingo card; by the end of the final film in the series, you can yell out “BINGO!” because you have gotten a blackout.
However strange that analogy of mine was, this is a series of films I highly recommend. Unlike other trilogies that feel like they run out of steam by the third installment, the final film in the Three Colors trilogy is actually the strongest. But I wouldn’t get too tied up in ranking these films because of how thematically different each one is. As typically interpreted, Blue is an anti-tragedy, White is an anti-comedy, and Red is an anti-romance. In a way, this reminded me of the Evil Dead trilogy because of how each film in that series took on different interpretations of horror. In the case of the Three Colors, each one takes on a different interpretation of life’s ups and downs.
Starting in the left to right order of the tricolored national flag of France, we begin with the film Blue. On the surface, Blue is the downer of the trilogy. It deals with a young French woman (Juliette Binoche) who has survived a car accident that has taken the lives of both her husband and her daughter. But that is merely the beginning of the film, the first beat following the film’s opening tone. Once we are shaken from the car wreck, we are slowly risen to our feet to join the young woman as she sets herself free from the life she once knew. It’s not that her life was unsatisfying, but her recent loss makes her memory unbearable.
Following Blue, is the kooky White. In contrast to its title, I would say that this film is a black comedy. It follows Karol, a Polish man (Zbigniew Zamachowski) rebuilding his life after being devastated by divorce. With revenge on his mind, the man slips his way into wealth and power just to see his ex-wife (Julie Delpy) experience the same level of pain. Ultimately, I found this film to be fascinating in a historical sense because of how it depicted Poland a few years after the Revolutions of 1989. While this is merely a backdrop to Karol’s trials and tribulations, you can feel the remnants of the Cold War in many parts of the film.
Finally, we reach the last film/color of the series: Red. This film hit home for me the most because of how it dealt with the unlikely connections people can make over the course of their lives. In this case, a part-time model (Irène Jacob) sympathetically becomes attached to a retired judge (Jean-Louis Trintignant) after hitting his dog with her car. What makes this a very intriguing movie is the many parallels being made to the central conflict. The same can be said about the trilogy as a whole of how interconnected the three stories are with each other. Red is the perfect film to wrap up the trilogy because of how in tuned it is with this concept.
Despite the different characters, languages, locations, and nationalities featured in each installment of the trilogy, it is one of the most concise film series that I have seen. With a total run time of 288 minutes, the series averages 96 minutes per film – a healthy duration, especially for a trilogy. The Three Colors are like a well balanced meal, with each major food group represented. It was definitely a refreshing series of films for me to watch since a majority of the films playing at my local theatre are sequels in candy-coated box office franchises.