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Krzysztof Kieślowski: Three Colours, 54 Moments, A Thousand Times Goodbye

The opening of Three Colours: White justaposes Karol walking briskly with a large suitcase on a conveyor belt. Kieślowski is keen to make a comment on technology on his openings – with Blue it’s a car, with Red it’s a telephone line. The suitcase shots were added in editing, a kind of taster of what would come later, giving the viewer an added narrative dimension. Almost like handing out information, but for what we not yet know.

White introduces Karol through his opening footsteps – pacey but short, tatty dress, some what clumsy perhaps. He is apprehension, framed so, and humiliated by a bird shitting on him.

Speaking of birds, those pigeons are quite prominent. In the first flashback to Karol and Dominique’s wedding, a bunch of pigeons flutter off as Dominique enters the frame.

The white, angelic little sequences from the wedding. Wonderful casting, the light-haired, fair skinned Julie Delpy was introduced to Krzysztof Kieślowski by Agnieszka Holland. Delpy also turned down, at one time or another, parts in The Double Life of Veronique and Blue.

Like Lucille in Blue, and the Judge in Red, our protagonists acquire a new found friend. In White, Karol is approached by Mikolaj, who will have a very intriguing favour to ask.

Of course, the colour white plays a big part. The brighter exteriors, the wedding day flashbacks, the bride, the snowy grounds were the smugglers give Karol a beating. Even the sky is a drab, misty white.

Karol, as played by Zbigniew Zamachowski, is a man of hapless nature and fortune. It’s a frantic, nervy performance, perfectly tuned to the film’s light comedy and emotive despair – smuggled at an airport; shat on by a bird; gets a coin stuck to his hand.

Mikolaj’s task for Karol is to kill him. Comes as a surprise of course, only to find the gun is loaded with blanks. A kind of reference to Karol’s marriage too, as he wasn’t able to unable to consumate it (you know, firing blanks).

Karol’s scheme comes with some moral side effects – perhaps no more so when he attends his own funeral and sees Dominique crying. Is she upset? Or is this just an act?

When all is revealed, Karol has the upper hand, and Dominique is stunned to see him, alive. Karol’s version of equality is about getting even.

And revenge here is a dish served with consummation. A far cry from the opening when Dominique is set to divorce Karol, with her finger folding wave after the court hearing. This was was Krzysztof Kieślowski’s idea, wanting a goodbye that was not sentimental.

Ah, Karol’s comb. We first see him playing it as he busks. Yes, playing it. You don’t think Kieślowski is not going to incorporate plot music somehow, do you?

Having grown in confidence and ambition, Karol’s recollection of his wedding goes as far as the kiss with Dominique. White’s cinematography is by Edward Klosinski, who has worked with Polish directors, Andrzej Wajda and Krzysztof Zanussi – two of Kieślowski’s favourites.

When Dominique is imprisoned, she signals a message to Karol down below. Again, that restricted communication between people.

Having succeeded in his plan, Karol cries openly as he looks up at Dominique through the window (of course). Remorse? Realisation? Love? Loss?




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