_ Red alert
As the culmination of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colours trilogy reaches our screens. Trevor Johnston meets actress Irene Jacob for an insider’s View of the Polish director at work and ponders the enigma of his achievement.
"flic thing about Krz.ys7.tol"s movies is that they're very open. He doesn't try to explain too much. and for this reason people can relate to them very personally — to like them or not!‘ Such is the assessment of the Kicslowski oeuvre offered by one of his closest collaborators. Swiss actress Irene Jacob. whose award-winning dual performance as both heroines in The Double Life of Vr‘rmir'que signified a shift in the Polish film-maker's work away from the concrete working out of moral problems that we‘d seen in The Delta/0g towards a new. even richer terrain. an odyssey into the mrrninous twilight between mortality and the infinite. ‘Krzysztof himself draws on very personal feelings when he writes. when he shoots. He asks the actors to give a lot of themselves and I think whenever something like these films is told so truthfully. people can really relate to it. I remember him telling rue that after l’l'rmrique a young girl came up to him and told him that after that film she suddenly understood what the soul was. For him I think it was worthwhile doing the whole movie just for that one vicvvcr.‘
‘He asks the actors to give a lot of themselves and I think whenever something like these films is told so truthfully, people can really relate to it.’
'I'lrree (Yr/ours Red may be just as likely to provoke extreme reactions. one way or the other. (‘haracteristically sparc in expression, it's not a film that lies there transparent. a one-time experience. Instead. it might be the ruost gnoruic work to come out of his current — and. if the man‘s own words are to be believed. final ~ trio on the themes of ‘liberty. equality. fraternity". Here Jacob faces another extraordinary acting challenge. carrying the film on her shoulders and providing the audience‘s prirue emotional conduit as Valentine. a vulnerable but kindly Geneva-based fashion and photographic model. who accidentally runs over the dog belonging to Jean-Louis Trintignant‘s curnurdgeonly retired judge. and whose effect on the embittered old man is a crucial indicator of a typical Kieslowskian theme — the mysterious alchemy of human contact and its ability to foster in even the hardest hearts a will to embrace humanity anew.
‘I knew right from the start of his work on the trilogy there'd be a part in this film for me.‘ reflects Jacob. the 27-year-old who‘s gained the most substantial acclaim of her career for her contributions to the two Kicslowski films she‘s starred in. ‘But before I got the script for Rwl he told rue the piece is
about the conflict in our lives between the ideals and hopes we have when we‘re young and the disappointments we face when the rest of life comes along and offers us only loss and separation. Perhaps you can‘t cope with that so you get cynical. yet maybe there‘s a dialogue there ruaybe you can change things after all.‘
Opening with a burst of most tin-Kicslowski technical flash following a phone call down the litre under Lake (iencva. through the wiring at the exchange and beyond. /\’('(I. even more than its predecessors. is a film that will offer up more to the viewer w ho makes the leap of faith to put some effort into watching it. The story does take its time in coalescing. the central therucs don‘t announce themselves with a fanfare. while the role of the two subsidiary characters a law student training to be a judge and the young woman he never quite seems to rueet talthough it might just be on the cards) only really falls into place during the linal reel. For this particular viewer. it was worthwhile being patient: the pay-off is fairly momentous. the close ofthc film offering a deeply resonant and positive sense of afﬁrmation that not only works in all the major characters froru lJ/m’ and ll’lim' btrt once again comes loaded with the effortless sense of gravitas. the hovering suggestiveness of things wider than mere lurruan design. that marks Kicslowski out as a supreme master of the litrropcan screen.
But that‘s just rue. It shouldn't sound like I’m sitting on the fence here. but Kieslowski's later work sometimes seems to resemble nothing less than a celluloid Rorshach test —~ what anyone sees in it will tell them as rmrch about themselves as it does about the object they‘re looking at. There are surely background reasons. iruprintcd in Kieslowski's design. why his work should prove so seductive to those susceptible to it. In lrenc Jacob. for instance. rather similar to the function performed by Juliette Binochc in Blue. we find another beautiful. slightly
lréne Jacob in three Colours: Red distant European actress in the centre of a telling spiritual turmoil — that's always a sucker punch for many an art movie casualty. Secondly. there‘s the disarming flow of Zbigniew Preisner‘s marvellous scores. movie music to leave you nursing on the stars. to be sure. One can go on: the deliberate withholding of narrative information. the overlay of portentous atruosphcrics allowed by the repeated occurrence of apparently puzzling incidents. it all seems fabricated to create a will towards coherence in the viewer. leaving them elated when they think they might just have pieced it all together. Kicslowski answers our need too for a wise old master of the ar'thouse scene. a situation left more or less vacant. since the giants of the ()()s and 70s have toppled through old age or inconsistency.
‘Before I got the script for ‘Red’ he told me that the piece is about the conflict in our lives between the ideals and hopes we have when we’re young and the disappointments we face when the rest of life comes along and offers us only
loss and separation.’
Even if you take all these elements into account ~ and they're certainly contributing factors to the Kicslowski phenomenon-don't get me wrong - still don't get close to explaining his films' strange power to affect us to our core. The tears still come. the stomach still tenses. the hairs on the back of the neck still rise. If the greatest art. the greatest music or writing finds some secret route to our souls that we ourselves never knew existed then there is the thing that makes it great in the first place. liven if he never makes another film. Kicslow'ski's in there. 'l‘hat‘s for
'I'lrree ('u/mirs lx’t’t/ plays l/lt‘ (‘u/rrt'o. lir/(n/un‘g/r (IIIr/ Glasgow [Vi/m T/It’tllIY'V/TUHI Friday 35 Abram/2e)“.
The List l8 November-l December I‘M-‘17