Red or Trois Couleurs: Rouge
This 1994 film is the third and final film in the Krzystof Kieslowski trilogy and some see it as the best one of three fine films. This one stands for Fraternity.
It stars Irene Jacob as Valentine, a successful young student and model who accidentally hits a dog one night. She sees on the dog’s collar where she lives and takes the dog to its owner who shoos her away. This older man is a retired judge (played by Jean-Louis Trintignant, who once was a very famous leading man in French cinema). The two of them begin a very strange relationship. He sends her money to pay for the dog’s medical help. She goes back to his house as he sent her too much money. She discovers that he has an elaborate system set up in his house where he is able to listen to everyone in the neighborhood. She finds this repulsive but is unwilling to do anything about it so he turns himself in to the authorities.
Over time they exchange information about one another and you discover that once he loved a woman, years ago, who ran off with another man. Then, after she had passed away, the other man came before the judge on a charge related to the death of others and the judge convicts him and then retires.
We see that the model’s love life is not going well. The man in her life is always gone and talking to her on the phone. He is jealous and suspicious and not at all very loving over the phone. We also see the love life of a young man unfold. The young man is like the judge years earlier. He is a lawyer and discovers that the woman he loves is involved with another man.
The judge tells the model Valentine that he has had a dream about her. In the dream she is 50 years old and very happy. They both believe in the dream. Valentine decides to go to England to visit her lover. The young lawyer also decides to do the same. The ferry sinks and 1,400 people die---only 7 survive. Amongst the seven are some of the characters from the earlier movie Blue (you see Binoche for only one or two seconds as she is being rescued…also earlier in the movie you see a scene replayed from Blue where an old woman is recycling bottles). Valentine and the young lawyer are also amongst the rescued.
We see through the film history repeating itself---only this time we have a happy ending. (We assume the model and the lawyer get together and that she doesn’t go on to England and the boyfriend there is dropped.)
So what is the meaning of the film? Keep in mind that this is the film about fraternity. Fraternity is the state or quality of being a brother or brothers. Not in terms of biology, but in terms of spirit. We are all one, tied together, linked by destiny. The judge is listening into the lives of others improperly, trying to find his link with life. He realizes this is not the path and so stops himself.
The lives of the young model Valentine and the lawyer and future judge that she becomes involved with when the ferry sinks, these are the lives that are linked to the retired judge. They are fulfilling his unfulfilled destiny. All of us die. All of us die having not fully completed our destiny in this less than perfect world. Remember, the great motto of France is Liberty, Equality, Fraternity! Yes, liberty is important. Yes, equality is important. But neither of these forces are perfected in our lives and we fall short of our desire to realize a perfect life. But we can continue our life beyond death. We can live on through the future generations. If we can’t realize our destiny in this life, then it can be realized through the lives of the next generation. If we understand this, then it comforts us tremendously. It is also at the heart of fraternity. We must recognize the deep connections we have with all of humanity. We must reach out and join together so that our dreams are realized, if not in this life, then in the next.
The film makes connections in a variety of ways. They young lawyer drops his books and one opens to a page that is very important for him to understand in his upcoming test as a student. A comparable event happened in the life of the retired judge. The judge’s dog is pregnant when hit and when it recovers it gives birth. Life is hard, life is dangerous, but life goes on. Also the color red is thoughtfully employed throughout the film and it stands for one of the colors on the French flag but it also stands for the fraternity at the heart of socialism. It is all the nuances that make the film great along with the fine acting that brings those nuances alive.