Three Colours Red Review

Noel Megahey has reviewed the UK Region 2 release of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colours Red. The third film in the Three Colours trilogy and the director’s final film. Once again, a high quality DVD with superb extra features.

Three Colours Red is probably most people’s favourite film of Kieslowski’s Three Colours Trilogy, which is undoubtedly down to its subject matter and the warm and fuzzy, feel-good manner in which it is handled. This is the fraternité section of the liberté, égalité, fraternité themes of the Three Colours Trilogy and the film is about love, understanding and respect for other human beings.

Irène Jacob is Valentine (the character’s name is surely no co-incidence), a model who goes to the house of a retired judge after accidentally running down his dog and finds him eavesdropping on his neighbours phone-calls. Trintignant is excellent as the misanthropic judge who has judged mankind and found then wanting while Jacob is sympathetic as the kind-hearted, innocent girl who still has faith in human nature. Despite their differences, a friendship develops between them and they find they both have something to learn about life and people from each other.

Right from the start, when we follow a telephone call along the wires to its destination, we know that the film is about communication. There are numerous instances of telephone calls, newspaper, television and weather reports – in fact most of the communication that exists in the film is via electronic media. The director obviously finds this method of communication between friends, lovers and family unsatisfactory – calls are missed, not taken, misunderstandings occur and relationships founder without personal involvement – even erroneous weather forecasts have disastrous consequences.

On a technical level Three Colours Red is certainly a strong film from Kieslowski. The director has applied to it the same rigorous control and attention to detail that he applies to all his films, but I think he has already dealt with similar themes in a much more profound and realistic manner in A Short Film About Love and Blind Chance and in a more lyrical manner with Irène Jacob in La Double Vie de Véronique. In Red images are soft and warm, while situations for the most part are unchallenging. Considering how the director made ‘freedom’ seem so intimidating in Blue, it is surprising that the director chose this approach for Red. Nevertheless, there are layers and layers of meaning and interpretation to be drawn from one of Kieslowski’s most complex scripts. Stripped down to iconic imagery, symbolic gestures and dialogue weighted with significance the film nevertheless remains lucid and watchable on the even the most superficial level, its resonance deepening with each subsequent viewing.

PictureThe picture quality on the Artificial Eye R2 release is excellent throughout. I had thought that the image looked a little soft and lacking in solid blacks, particularly in interior scenes, but this appears to be down to the use of filters, giving the film a soft, warm, appropriate reddish tint – so I have no doubt that the effect is intentional. The film is presented anamorphically in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and there are no noticeable marks on the print and there is very little, if any, visible grain.

SoundWhile the other two films in the trilogy contained a Dolby Digital 5.0 soundtrack, Three Colours Red only has a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. The information on the case specifies a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, but this is incorrect. In any case, the sound quality is fine and it is doubtful that it would benefit in any way from a surround-sound format.

ExtrasThree Colours Red has the most, and in some ways, the best set of extras of the three DVDs for the trilogy.

Krzysztof Kieslowski MasterclassEasily the best feature on the previous DVDs, here again the director provides a commentary on a particular sequence from the film. The choice of sequence on this DVD is strange however as it only informs about the editing process and the short-hand that the director uses to get his message across to the viewer. There is a better example of this – the scene in the bowling alley – in the Marin Karmitz interview.

TrailersThe obligatory trailers are there – one each for Blue, White and Red. These are presented non-anamorphically at 1.85:1.

Extracts from the Original SoundtrackThree short – medium length pieces from Zbigniew Preisner’s original score for the film, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0.

Interview with Irène JacobIrène Jacob provides a mini-commentary for certain scenes from the film and offers her own interpretation of her character and the film. Kieslowski never discussed his characters or the meanings of his films, not even with the actors involved – especially in this film, which seems to be a particularly personal film for the director.

Interview with Jacques WittaAn extended and fascinating interview with the editor of the film, explaining a lot of the reasoning for the choices in editing. Witta also shows 7 deleted scenes from the film, explaining why they were left out of the final cut. In most cases it was down to Kieslowski’s preference for precision and concision – showing nothing more than is absolutely necessary.

Interview with Marin KarmitzThe producer provides information about the production and location shooting of the film and talks about the Oscar ceremony in 1994. The interviews on all the disks of the trilogy are fantastic, providing an eye-opening experience of the whole film-making process.

Kieslowski, Cannes 1994This is a 15 minute documentary, mainly consisting of the cast and director being interrogated by the press. There is a great deal of probing to try and understand the director, as he answers questions on philosophy, morality and religion while trying to eat his lunch.

The Making Of Another pretty substantial feature, showing the technical set-ups for 7 scenes and the final take for each scene. Again, an interesting view of the whole film-making process.

OverallEverything is resolved a little too conveniently in Three Colours Red, but the conclusion to the film is nevertheless satisfying and is a perfect summation for the overarching theme of the whole Three Colours Trilogy and the values it represents.


Updated: Nov 16, 2001

Get involved
Continue the conversation over on The Digital Fix Forum
Three Colours Red Review | The Digital Fix