Sunday, 4 April 2010

Trois Couleurs - Rouge / Three colours Red

A fascinating film. An examination of relationships, of truth, of motivation for living and of social responsibility - oh, and a lot things coloured red! Set in Geneva and focussing on Valentine, a student and part-time model. The film revolves around Valentine's relationships and the relationships of those around her as it explores different dynamics of relationship and social interaction.

Valentine poses for a poster to promote chewing gum and a 65' wide picture of her in profile adorns the city streets. She seems unfazed by her new notoriety as she desperately tries to cajole her reluctant and at the same time obsessive boyfriend Michel into a closer a relationship. The film opens with the viewer being taken down the phone lines and under the sea to emerge in a handset as an international call between the two connects between Geneva and London. Phones are central to the telling of the story - they are used in an allegorical way to depict how people communicate - or choose not to, or choose to do so on an other frequency.

Valentine runs over a dog by accident and tracks down the owner - a retired Judge who is extremely bitter and cynical and who is not at all interested in the dog or its fate. She takes it to a vet where the wounds are dressed and a good prognosis is announced - along with the news that the dog is pregnant. Valentine takes the dog home but it soon runs off when let off the leash in a local park. It is tracked down at the original owners. Valentine has received FFr 600 in the post and suspects the owner of sending it. Valentine hands the money back saying that the vet's bill was only FFr 130. The Judge gives a FFr 100 note from the bundle and wonders inside to find the additinal FFr 30. He is gone a long time and Valentine enters his home in search of him only to discover that he is listening in on all his neighbours phone calls. She is shocked and disgusted and tells the Judge to stop it. She cannot bear to listen to the conversation currently under way when two men talk about their liaison the previous day and how one of them the Judge's neighbour, wants more. The Judge points out the house where the call is coming from and Valentine resolutely heads off to confront the husband. she is met by the man's devoted and hospitable wife and she waits for the man to finish his call upstairs she notices the man's daughter listening in on an extension. Valentine tells the wife she has the wrong house and leaves hurriedly.

Whilst visiting the Judge, Valentine also overhears a conversation between Karin and Auguste (her neighbour), where they discuss if they should go bowling. Valentine covers her ears, but from the very little she heard she concludes that they love each other. The Judge takes an opposing view. That evening Valentine is alone at home and hopes that Michel would call but it is the photographer who calls, saying that her poster was set up that evening and asks her bowling to celebrate. She goes and ends up unknowingly bowling only a few alleys away from Karin and Auguste as she is unable to make the connection to the conversation she part overheard. In the bowling alley we see a broken beer glass. Broken glass is another recurring allegorical picture of the fractured, shattered and sharp relationships that make up this story.

From the newspaper, Valentine reads that the Judge wrote to his neighbours and the Police admitting what he had been doing and was consequently up in court against his neighbours in a class action. On their next meeting, Valentine and the Judge continue their philosophical conversations about pity, disgust, trust, relationships, destiny, guilt, remorse, punishment and a whole lot more.  The judge suggests that being in a position of deciding what is truth and what is not displays a lack of modesty and vanity on behalf of humanity.

Valentine buys a ferry ticket so that she can visit Michel in England. That night she is taking part in a fashion show as catwalk model and invites the Judge. For the first time he makes himself look presentable and enjoys the evening. Afterwards, against the backdrop of an ominous thunder-storm, the couple talk and the Judge begins to share some of his story. It is clear that the couple are growing closer and Valentine's caring, compassionate but troubled nature and the Judge's tendency to play God strike and discordant note to begin with. However as the narrative unfolds, the relationship between the two is always electrifying and as time and conversation, reflection and a coming to terms with reality, brings them closer, there is real warmth and the development of mutual respect and admiration.

The film ends with breaking news on the TV of a ferry disaster in the English Channel. With nearly 1500 people on board, only seven survivors are pulled from the sea: the main characters from the first two films of the trilogy, Julie and Olivier from Blue, Karol and Dominique from White, Valentine and Auguste, who meet for the first time, as well as an English bartender named Stephen Killian. The film's final image shows the chewing-gum poster image of Valentine in stunning profile against a billowing red sheet.

As mentioned in my review of Bleu, Roger Ebert describes the trilogy "as an anti-romance, in parallel with Blue being an anti-tragedy and White being an anti-comedy." I think this is a much better way of analysing a linking theme - it is much easier than trying to read Liberty, Fraternity and Equality into it! Another recurring image related to the spirit of the film is that of elderly people recycling bottles; in the case of Rouge an old woman cannot reach the hole of the container and Valentine helps her (in the spirit of fraternity [sic] underlying the film?). In Bleu, an old woman in Paris is recycling bottles and Julie does not notice her (in the spirit of liberty?); in Blanc, an old man also in Paris is trying to recycle a bottle but cannot reach the container and Karol looks at him with a grin on his face (in the spirit of equality?).

Another excellent piece of work from Krzysztof KieĊ›lowski. The whole trilogy is well worth a watch. My favourite is Bleu.

I'll give this one 7.5/10.

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