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25. Blanc (Trois Couleurs Trologie)
White (Three Colors Trilogy)

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Three Colors: White (French: Trois Couleurs: Blanc, Polish: Trzy kolory. Bialy) is a 1994 Polish-film co-written, produced, and directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski. White is the second in the Three Colors trilogy, themed on the French Revolutionary ideals, following Blue and preceding Red.

This film illustrates the second theme of the Three Colors trilogy, equality, through the two desires of the protagonist Karol Karol: improving his station in life, and revenge. In contrast to the introspective, melancholy, and eventually hopeful stories of Blue and Red, White is a black comedy.[cite this quote]

After opening with a brief, seemingly irrelevant scene of a suitcase on an airport carousel, the story quickly focuses on a Paris divorce court where Karol Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski) is pleading with the judge — the same proceeding that Juliette Binoche's character briefly stumbled upon in Blue. The immigrant Karol, despite his difficulty in understanding French, is made to understand that his wife Dominique (Julie Delpy) does not love him. The grounds for divorce are humiliating: Karol was unable to consummate the marriage. Along with his wife, he loses his means of support (a beauty salon they jointly owned) his legal residency in France and the rest of his cash in a series of mishaps, and is soon a beggar. He only retains a 2 Fr. coin that he got as change from the phone while trying to speak with his now ex-wife.

In a Paris Métro station, performing songs for spare change, Karol meets and is befriended by another Pole, Mikolaj (Janusz Gajos). While Karol has lost his wife and his property, Mikolaj is married and successful, he offers Karol a job consisting of killing someone who wants to be dead but does not have enough courage to do it himself. Through a hazardous scheme, Mikolaj helps him return to Poland hidden in the suitcase shown at the beginning of the film, which was later stolen by employees at the airport. He returns to working as a hairdresser with his brother (played by Jerzy Stuhr; Stuhr and Zamachowski also played brothers in the tenth episode of The Decalogue, likewise a comedy about a money-making scheme).

Karol takes a job as a bodyguard in a seemingly innocent cash exchange office. Mikolaj meets Karol in a Warsaw Metro tunnel for the execution of the "suicide", it turns out to be that Mikolaj is the intended victim and asks Karol to kill him. Karol shoots a blank into Mikolaj's chest and asks him if he really wants to go through with it, because the next bullet is real, Mikolaj refuses and is able to feel alive again. Using his position as a deceptively aloof bodyguard to spy on his bosses who were scheming to purchase different pieces of land that they knew were going to be targeted by big companies for developments and sell them with big profits, Karol beats them to it, and then tells his ex-bosses that if they kill him all his estate shall go to the Church, therefore they are forced to purchase all the land from him. With the money he gained from this scheme and with the payment by Mikolaj, the two go into business (of a vaguely defined but possibly illegal nature) together. Karol becomes ruthlessly ambitious, focusing his energies on money-making schemes while learning French and brooding over his wife's abandonment. He uses his new financial influence in a world where, as several characters observe, "you can buy anything" to execute a complex scheme to first win back Dominique, and then destroy her life by faking his own death after which she is imprisoned for his 'murder'. The final image of the film shows Karol staring at Dominique through the window of her prison cell, while crying.

The climax of the film was shot months after the rest of the film, and was intended to soften Dominique's image; Kieslowski has said that he was dissatisfied with the ending shot previously and wanted her to seem less of a monster

The film has a political subtext, in which Karol's impotence and financial helplessness in France, and subsequent rise as a somewhat shady capitalist, mirror the attempts of Poland to advance from its disadvantaged position within Europe. Though Kieslowski had cheered the downfall of Poland's former communist regime, in later life he expressed a nearly equal distaste for the free-market adjustments that followed, believing that opportunities for real equality had been passed up in the pursuit of money and European prestige.[citation needed]

Like Blue, the film's cinematography makes heavy use of the title colour: the sky is almost always white, and a scene in Poland is filmed in a white snowscape. An explosion of white is also the colour of the long-awaited orgasm. As with the rest of the Three Colors trilogy, White contains numerous images that at first appear unconnected but are revealed to be flashbacks, flash-forwards, or references to other films in the trilogy. In the opening scene in the courthouse, Juliette Binoche, playing Julie from Blue, briefly enters the courtroom by accident, as she had been seen doing in the earlier film.

A symbol common to the three films is that of an underlying link or thing that keeps the protagonist linked to his/her past, in the case of White the items that link Karol to his past are a 2 Fr. coin and a plaster bust that he stole from an antique store in Paris, the first one inexplicably sticks to his hand when he want to throw it away until he buries it with "his" corpse. In the case of Red the judge never closes or locks his doors and his fountain pen, which stops working at a crucial point in the story. In the case of Blue it is a lamp of blue beads and a recurring image of people falling.
A recurring image related to the spirit of the film is that of elderly people recycling bottles; in Three Colors: White, an old man in Paris is trying to recycle a bottle but cannot reach the container and Karol looks at him with a sinister grin on his face (in the spirit of equality). In Three Colors: Blue, an old woman in Paris is recycling bottles and Julie does not notice her (in the spirit of freedom); in Three Colors: Red an old woman cannot reach the hole of the container and Valentine helps her (in the spirit of solidarity).
It has been interpreted as an anti-comedy, in parallel with Blue being an anti-tragedy and Red being an anti-romance.[1]

White is the soundtrack to the film Three Colors: White by Polish composer Zbigniew Preisner and performed by Silesian Philharmonic choir along with Sinfonia


Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski
Produced by Marin Karmitz
Written by Krzysztof Piesiewicz
Krzysztof Kieslowski
Starring Zbigniew Zamachowski
Julie Delpy
Music by Zbigniew Preisner
Cinematography Edward Klosinski
Editing by Urszula Lesiak
Distributed by Miramax (USA)
Release date(s) January 26, 1994
Running time 88 min.
Country Poland
Language French/Polish
Preceded by Three Colors: Blue
Followed by Three Colors: Red

Zbigniew Zamachowski: "Karol Karol"
Julie Delpy: "Dominique Vidal"
Janusz Gajos: "Mikolaj"
Jerzy Stuhr: "Jurek"
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