After his wife divorces him, a Polish immigrant plots to get even with her.
Even though Kieslowski’s Three Colors Trilogy is meant to be a symbolic of the colors on the French Flag, and the colors themselves are meant to stand for three political ideals of the French revolution (liberty, equality, and fraternity), I decided to tackle the Trilogy for the Polish leg of our World Tour Series because Kieslowski is Polish, and this film has parts that are set in Warsaw. This film is meant to represent equality.
Where the first film in this trilogy (“Blue”) was primarily a tragedy (or anti-tragedy), this film is primarily a comedy (or anti-comedy). Though I say this film is a comedy I can agree with the interpretation that it is really an anti-comedy, for, if you think about the string of events that takes place within this film, you might come to realize that none of the events are particularly funny. In fact, most of the events are pretty depressing, and were it not directed the way that it was, this film could be viewed as a tragedy, even a revenge tale. It’s Kieslowski’s direction, as well as the naively optimistic outlook of our protagonist, Karol Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski, “Three Colors: Red”), that brings another layer of humor that wouldn’t have been there without them, and without that layer, this film would’ve been entirely different and probably far more depressing.
If I’m being honest, I think “Three Colors: Blue” is a better film than this one (by just a bit), but overall, “White” is a far more enjoyable watch. Karol Karol is an immensely likeable character, even if he is a bit of a bumbling bumpkin for the first forty minutes of the movie. His wife’s character Dominique (Julie Delpy, “Europa Europa”) is incredibly unlikeable at the beginning, which makes his character’s obsession with her seem almost comical. His want to win his wife’s heart again made me think of silent era romantic shorts, where Chaplin or Lloyd would do some ridiculous stunt to impress their loved one (like roller skating while blindfolded or scaling the side of a building), only to have their loved one finally realize how great they are, and, in the last few minutes, the lovers would at last kiss. While this movie doesn’t go so far as to have Karol scale a building, he does go to impossible lengths, which, in the end, feel utterly ridiculous when viewed from a sane person’s perspective.
I actually really loved Karol’s relationship with Mikolaj (Janusz Gajos). When Karol first meets Mikolaj in Paris, Karol has lost everything, and he doesn’t even have a way to return home to his own country. Mikolaj takes pity on him and helps him return to Poland (using one of the funnier gags of the film). The two don’t see each other for a while, but eventually Mikolaj comes to Karol for help, and Karol does help him (though not in the way Mikolaj wanted). The two sort of take turns saving each other’s lives, and in doing so, they also help each other to accomplish their own goals and grow as characters, and this relationship, though it is bizarre, never feels forced or unnatural.
Kieslowski’s direction is great. As I already mentioned above, he’s able to craft an atmosphere of humor round all of these tragic events in a way that feels, well, humorous instead of depressing. I mean this is a movie where the main plot revolves around a man’s wife leaving him because he’s unable to satisfy her sexually, and then him moving back home and sinking into a criminal lifestyle; nothing about that storyline is funny, yet the way Kieslowski handles it had me in stitches at times. But beyond making tragic events comedic, Kieslowski was also able to bring plenty of symbolism to even the most mundane of events. Just like Juliette Binoche’s character in “Blue” has a blue piece of artwork in her house that comes to represent her life (and her relationship towards her life- if she hates/loves it), Karol Karol’s character has a (white) statue that comes to represent his and Dominique’s relationship (he even goes so far as to glue the statue back together again when it breaks). There’s also a recurring Two Franc coin that comes to represent his life over the course of the film.
I have been very impressed with both entries I’ve seen of the Three Colors Trilogy. Kieslowski has a way of making the viewer look at events that play out in this movie in a light that one might not suspect, and oftentimes he’s able to infuse a bit of humor where one might not expect to find it.
End Note: Juliette Binoche’s character makes a very brief appearance at the beginning of this film: in the courtroom right when Karol Karol and Dominique are settling their divorce case.
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