3 January 2000 | elihu-2
A Sublime Shade of Red
The last film in the Three Colors trilogy, RED, is deceptively simple, yet it rounds out everything that came before in an enlightening way. It slightly resembles THE DOUBLE LIFE OF VERONIQUE in its theme of fraternity, and in its casting of Irene Jacob, who manages to exude a sense of curious innocence and integrity. She interprets the role of Valentine, a young Swiss model and student living in Geneva and experiencing a kind of emotional limbo as she awaits her boyfriend's return from England. Through a seemingly trivial twist of fate, she encounters a cynical retired judge (Jean-Louis Trintignant) who leads a lonely, world weary existence and eavesdrops on his neighbors' telephone conversations. Initially she finds his detached indifference appalling, and wants to report him, but her compassionate nature enables her to comprehend the greater plight of the man, one of leading a fruitless, lovelorn life. They form a touching friendship, and this sets the stage for another turn of events. Auguste (Jean-Pierre Lorit) is young judge who is in many ways a mirror image of Trintignant's character. He lives near Valentine, but through possible lack of synchronicity, they never meet. Upheavals in his life are accordingly similar to the old judge's, but this time, due to the presence of the noble Valentine, an old adversity can be turned on its side, bringing fulfillment for everyone.
With Red, there is a real sense of culmination unlike any other. Wistful, melancholy, yet life-affirming, the film offers hope in world full of supposed mistaken paths. Tritignant remarked on Kieslowski's talents in augmenting the emotions of the actors through his technique: "I'm very pleased with my work on this film - and I don't think it had a lot to do with me. For example, at the end of the film when my character goes to the window, looks outside, and starts to cry - I couldn't do it, I couldn't summon the tears. I tried to make myself cry but couldn't manage it. Krzysztof called the make-up lady who shot menthol into my eyes. We shot the scene and Krzysztof said 'It's good, next shot.' Recently I saw the finished film. I waited anxiously for this scene. And I cried when I saw myself."
Tritignant's nuanced portrayal is augmented by equally good work from Jacob who bears insight into her role as well: "Something really great about RED are the 'non-encounters' between Auguste and Valentine. They pass each other without ever meeting. They might be great for each other but they never meet. It reminds me of THE DOUBLE LIFE OF VERONIQUE where the two identical Veroniques are face to face but don't see each other. In RED this idea is reflected by the way Valentine can't face up to her life, her love, her sorrows. How can Auguste see her, or she him? How can they both release themselves from this blindness?"
The uplifting aura of this film shines even brighter given the pettiness with which the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences brushed it off. Due to the fact that is a multinational co-production, with a Polish director, mixed Swiss and French cast and crew, Red was not allowed to compete for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar as a film from Switzerland. Indeed, the trilogy itself is without a country as it transcends borders and even culture in its solemn inquiry into human nature and that is a prize in itself.