Three Colours White Review

Noel Megahey has reviewed the UK Region 2 release of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colours White. The second film in the Three Colours trilogy and another excellent quality DVD with superb extras

After filming finished on Three Colours Blue, Kieslowski immediately started work on White, the second film in the Three Colours Trilogy. He directed the editing of the first film, at the same time filming White and putting the finishing touches to the script and preparations for Red – an incredible task, completing 3 films in 9 months – a task that pushed an already tired director to his limits. Kieslowski never completed another film after the Three Colours Trilogy and died in 1996.

Death, the leveller of all men, is a constant theme in White – Kieslowski’s meditation on égalité, equality. If the Three Colours Trilogy can be seen as a kind of Kieslowski’s Greatest Hits for a new market with Three Colours Blue having parallels with La Double Vie de Véronique and Three Colours Red a twist on the themes of Blind Chance, then Three Colours White takes its lead in some ways from A Short Film About Killing and in others from A Short Film About Love. In contrast to the shockingly oppressive atmosphere of Killing and the reflective meditation of Blue however, White is a much more light-hearted film, a dark comedy, which is very funny in places, that sets it apart from the other two films in the trilogy. The director carefully assembled the teams he wanted to work with in each of the films, giving each film a distinctive look and feel. In White, Kieslowski worked with many of his regular Polish film crew and many of the actors who appeared in Dekalog 10, including the wonderful Jerzy Stuhr (Camera Buff) who had an affinity for the tone the director wanted to convey in this film.

Karol Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski) is a Polish hairdresser who is thrown-out by his French wife Dominique (Julie Delpy). Divorced, homeless, penniless and humiliated he is left on the streets with a single suitcase. A fellow Pole says he will help him return back to Poland, smuggled inside the suitcase (an improbable feat then, an impossible one now). As low as he has been brought to, things take a turn for the worse when he arrives in Poland, but Karol is determined to succeed, get rich quickly and win back the wife he is still in love with.

Like each of the films in the trilogy, but particularly here, White is a brilliant piece of pared-down film-making and economical storytelling with great attention placed on the smallest of details – allowing the body language of the characters to define who they are and speak for them more than dialogue can. The film does not have all that serious a point to make about equality – it’s more about getting even. Those who are down at their lowest can rise up again and those who are up can come down.

PictureThe picture generally is fine. The film is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic, there are practically no marks on the print and there is very little visible grain. The picture looks a little light in places and lacking in contrast, but is sharp throughout and there is little to find fault with. As with the other trilogy DVDs, the menus are standard MK2 menus rather than usual Artificial Eye menus, and are clear and functional and accompanied by music from the film.

SoundThe soundtrack is Dolby Digital 5.0, the surround sound is used sparingly but effectively for the musical score or for echo effect in certain scenes. The soundtrack is clear and again has an excellent score by Zbigniew Preisner, contributing to the tone and character of the film.

ExtrasTrailersThere are three trailers – one each for Three Colours Blue, White and Three Colours Red. These are presented non-anamorphically at 1.85:1.

Extracts from the Original SoundtrackThree pieces of medium length from Zbigniew Preisner’s superb score, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0.

Interview with Julie DelpyJulie Delpy turns out to be very pleasant and not at all like the character she plays in the film. Like Juliette Binoche, she has great admiration for Kieslowski and feels honoured to have worked with him. She explains the sign-language scene at the end of the film for anyone who might be confused by the final scene. I know I was the first time I saw the film.

Interview with Marin KarmitzA shorter interview with the film’s producer on this disk where he reveals details of the production from letters by Kieslowski. All the interviews are divided into chapters and have fixed English subtitles. There is no option to play them as a continuous interview.

The Making Of Three Colours WhiteThis featurette can be played as a whole or as separate chapters. It is subtitled with a black bar across the screen which hides the fixed French subtitles that can be seen if the feature is played in fast-forward. The documentary shows scenes that were filmed in Poland (the majority of the film). It’s a good extra, but is actually less interesting and less illuminating than the superb masterclass feature.

Krzysztof Kieslowski MasterclassLike the masterclass on Blue, this is a superb extra. The director provides a commentary on the opening scene of the film, explaining its significance and how it sets the scene for the whole film. The attention to the smallest detail is astonishing. If Kieslowski were alive his commentaries would be among the finest on any DVD.

OverallThere is really little to fault with this DVD. A wonderful film, well presented with an array of extras that you could only dream about for a film of this class.


Updated: Nov 14, 2001

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