Three Colours: Red

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Three Colours: Red
Three Colors-Red.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski
Written by
Produced by Marin Karmitz
Cinematography Piotr Sobociński
Edited by Jacques Witta
Music by Zbigniew Preisner
Distributed by
  • MK2 Diffusion (France)
  • Rialto Film (Switzerland)
Release dates
  • 12 May 1994 (1994-05-12)(Cannes)
  • 27 May 1994 (1994-05-27)(Poland)
  • 31 August 1994 (1994-08-31)(Switzerland)
  • 14 September 1994 (1994-09-14)(France)
Running time
99 minutes
  • Switzerland
  • France
  • Poland
Box office$4 million [1]

Three Colours: Red (French : Trois couleurs: Rouge, Polish : Trzy kolory. Czerwony) is a 1994 romantic mystery film co-written, produced and directed by Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieślowski. It is the final installment of the Three Colours trilogy , which examines the French Revolutionary ideals; it is preceded by Blue and White . Kieślowski had announced that this would be his final film, [2] which proved true with the director's sudden death in 1996. Red is about fraternity, which it examines by showing characters whose lives gradually become closely interconnected, with bonds forming between two characters who appear to have little in common.


Red was released to universal critical acclaim, and was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Director for Kieślowski. It was also selected as the Swiss entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 67th Academy Awards, but was disqualified for not being a majority-Swiss production. [3]

As of 2022, it is one of only two films to receive perfect ratings on both Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, along with Fanny and Alexander .


Valentine Dussaut (Irene Jacob) is a student at the University of Geneva and works as a part-time model. She frequently calls her possessive boyfriend, who is abroad, and plans to meet him in London. For her modelling job, she poses for a chewing-gum ad campaign and a photo of her displaying sad emotions is selected. While walking back home, Auguste (Jean-Pierre Lorit), a law student neighbour of Valentine's, drops his textbooks and one book falls open at a particular chapter of the Criminal Code, which he notes. Driving back to her apartment, Valentine accidentally hits and injures a Malinois dog named Rita. She tracks down the owner, a retired judge, Joseph Kern (Jean-Louis Trintignant), but he seems unconcerned so Valentine keeps the dog. Valentine takes Rita to a veterinarian, where she learns that the dog is pregnant. She overcomes the sexual advances made by the ad company's photographer. Later, money is delivered to her apartment from an unnamed sender.

Out for a walk the next day, Rita leads Valentine back to Kern's house. He says she should keep the dog after confirming that he sent the money for the expenses. She gives Kern extra change after meeting the vet's expenses. Valentine then discovers that Kern is eavesdropping on a male neighbour's sexual telephone conversation with his male lover. She tries to convey to him her concerns about respecting the privacy of his neighbour. But the judge challenges Valentine to reveal the eavesdropping to the neighbour. She goes to do so but is horrified, not only to encounter the man's unsuspecting wife, but furthermore to witness their young daughter on the telephone extension, listening to the same conversation. Upon her return, Kern tells her that their actions of telling or not telling, and spying or not spying make no difference to the eventual outcome of other people's lives. As the conversation goes on, Valentine reveals that her brother was fathered by someone other than her biological father. Before leaving, Valentine also hears a conversation between Auguste and his girlfriend, Karin (Frederique Feder), neither of whom she has met. Auguste passes his exam to become a judge and credits his success to the dropped textbook.

That evening, Kern writes a series of letters to his neighbours and the court confessing his spying activities, and the community files a class action lawsuit. Later, at the courts, Kern sees Karin flirting with another man. When Valentine confronts Kern, he says it was her feeling of disgust that prompted him to confess. They discuss the nature of altruism when Kern recounts a case in which he mistakenly acquitted a sailor, only to see him live a life free of crime. Valentine asks if he has ever loved or been loved. Kern evades the question and instead talks about a dream he had the night before in which Valentine was 40 or 50 years old living a very happy life.

Auguste has been unable to reach Karin by telephone since his graduation so he drives to her flat and climbs up the building. Through the window, he sees her having sex with another man and leaves. He takes his grief out on his dog and at one stage abandons him at a lamppost. Kern calls Karin's weather service and asks her about the weather for the English Channel, which she predicts will be clear. She is happy about this as she is about to sail there herself soon with her new boyfriend who owns a yacht.

The day before Valentine leaves for England, she invites Kern to her fashion show. Stormy weather is gathering and Kern seems to sense that Valentine will soon be in danger from it. After the show, the two have coffee at the theatre and their conversation turns again to Kern's doomed love life. His story betrays echoes of Auguste's recent life, including the infidelity and the dropped textbook. He says that the girl he loved died in an accident after he followed her across the English Channel and that his last case as a judge pitted him against his ex-girlfriend's lover. By coincidence, Auguste's first case as a judge is Kern's trial. Kern tells Valentine in more detail about the dream he had about her. In the dream, she is 50 years old and happy and with a man she loves. As they say goodbye, Kern and Valentine plan to meet again in three weeks' time when Kern will give her one of Rita's puppies.

Finally, Valentine boards the ferry to England. Auguste also boards the ferry, reunited with his dog. Kern is tending to the puppies when he learns that a storm has hit the English Channel and both the ferry and the yacht have sunk. Watching the television coverage of the incident, it is revealed only seven survivors are pulled from the ferry - a barman, Julie and Olivier from Blue , Karol and Dominique from White , Auguste (without his dog) and finally Valentine. Kern is relieved upon seeing the news and looks out of his broken window. The final image is a television freeze-frame of Valentine which replicates the ad poster, but with real emotion showing on her face.



Kieslowski stated that Red was the most difficult film of the trilogy to write: "I've got everything I need to put across what I want to say, which is really quite complicated. Therefore, if the idea I've got in mind doesn't come across, it meant that either film is too primitive a medium to support such a construction or that all of us put together haven't got enough talent for it." [4] The main theme of the score, "Bolero", was written before any filming took place. According to the filmmakers, it was meant to symbolize events that occur repeatedly in people's lives. [5]


As in the previous two films, a single color dominates: numerous objects in the film are bright red, including the huge advertising banner featuring Valentine's facial profile. Several images recur throughout the film. Characters are often juxtaposed on different physical levels. The scenes between Valentine and Kern at his house never show the characters on the same level: Valentine either stands above him or sits below him. When Karin searches for Auguste, he hides on a walkway below her. During the climactic scene in the theater, Valentine stands on the stage, towering over Kern who is in the pit below. Telephone communication is important throughout, and so is broken glass (when Kern reveals his eavesdropping, his neighbors throw rocks through his windows, and at the end of the film Kern watches Valentine and Auguste on the news while watching the outside world through broken glass). Also, when Valentine is bowling, the camera moves down the line to where there sits a broken glass next to a packet of Marlboro cigarettes, which is the brand that Auguste smokes.

Biblical references relating to the Gospel of Matthew are also evident. The old man can be pictured as an Old Testament archetype, a God-like figure. Exploring biblical ideas in Red the questions of the judge being a ‘God’ figure is probably the one that has been explored most often. That he is as an Old Testament God, control over the wind and seas and predicts about people future. This film also depicts topics of the Philosophy of Law and the manner in which man acts in society, the relationship between the law, ethics and socially acceptable behavior and how not all of them coincide, particularly in the reflections by Judge Kern and some symbols related to Auguste.

Roger Ebert interpreted the film as an anti-romance, in parallel with Blue being an anti-tragedy and White being an anti-comedy. [6]


Three Colors: Red received overwhelmingly positive reviews. It holds both a 100 out of 100 rating on Metacritic [ citation needed ] and a 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 54 reviews, with an average rating of 8.70/10. Rotten Tomatoes' critical consensus reads, "A complex, stirring, and beautifully realized portrait of interconnected lives, Red is the captivating conclusion to a remarkable trilogy." [7]

Film critic Geoff Andrew responded positively in Time Out London : "While Kieślowski dips into various interconnecting lives, the central drama is the electrifying encounter between Valentine—caring, troubled—and the judge, whose tendency to play God fails to match, initially, the girl's compassion. It's a film about destiny and chance, solitude and communication, cynicism and faith, doubt and desire; about lives affected by forces beyond rationalization. The assured direction avoids woolly mysticism by using material resources—actors, color, movement, composition, sound—to illuminate abstract concepts. Stunningly beautiful, powerfully scored and immaculately performed, the film is virtually flawless, and one of the very greatest cinematic achievements of the last few decades. A masterpiece." [8] The film was included in the San Francisco Chronicle "Hot 100 Films From the Past" in 1997. [9]

Year-end lists


Awards and recognition

See also

Related Research Articles

<i>Three Colours: Blue</i> 1993 film

Three Colours: Blue is a 1993 drama film directed and co-written by Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieślowski. Blue is the first of three films that comprise the Three Colours trilogy, themed on the French Revolutionary ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity; it is followed by White and Red. According to Kieślowski, the subject of the film is liberty, specifically emotional liberty, rather than its social or political meaning.

Krzysztof Kieślowski Polish film director and screenwriter

Krzysztof Kieślowski was a Polish film director and screenwriter. He is known internationally for Dekalog (1989), The Double Life of Veronique (1991), and the Three Colours trilogy (1993 –1994). Kieślowski received numerous awards during his career, including the Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize (1988), FIPRESCI Prize, and Prize of the Ecumenical Jury (1991); the Venice Film Festival FIPRESCI Prize (1989), Golden Lion (1993), and OCIC Award (1993); and the Berlin International Film Festival Silver Bear (1994). In 1995, he received Academy Award nominations for Best Director and Best Writing.

<i>Three Colours: White</i> 1994 film

Three Colours: White is a 1994 comedy-drama film co-written, produced, and directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski. White is the second in the Three Colours trilogy, themed on the French Revolutionary ideals, following Blue and preceding Red. The film was selected as the Polish entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 67th Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nominee.

Zbigniew Preisner Polish film score composer

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Irène Jacob French-born Swiss actress

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The 19th César Awards ceremony, presented by the Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma, honoured the best French films of 1993 and took place on 26 February 1994 at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris. The ceremony was chaired by Gérard Depardieu and hosted by Fabrice Luchini and Clémentine Célarié. Smoking / No Smoking won the award for Best Film.

The 20th César Awards ceremony, presented by the Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma, honoured the best French films of 1994 and took place on 25 February 1995 at the Palais des Congrès in Paris. The ceremony was chaired by Alain Delon and hosted by Jean-Claude Brialy and Pierre Tchernia. Wild Reeds won the award for Best Film.

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