Three Colours: Red (1994) – Paths and Possibilities

As the dust settled and the cordite faded from the air, the instigators of the French revolution held aloft the severed heads of their old oppressors and proclaimed a new age of humanity; an age in which people would be governed not by the supposedly divine whim of royal genetics but by reason and the principles of the enlightenment.  Principles such as Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.  Over two hundred years later, the polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski decided to devote a trilogy of films to the question of what these hallowed values mean to the modern world.  The results are far from a glowing endorsement.

In Blue, Kieslowski renders liberty as an icy internal exile from those who would love us.  In White, he reinvents equality as a bitter and demented desire to get even. In these two films we see Kieslowski’s belief that, rather than founding a new society, the values of the enlightenment now serve to drive us apart.  Given this pessimistic assessment of the first two revolutionary values, it is surprising to discover in Three Colours: Red an exploration of the concept of Fraternity that is both upbeat in tone and resoundingly hopeful in outlook.  For Kieslowski, Liberty and Equality are virtues that drive us into the isolation of individualism while Fraternity, the sense of a common bond between all people, is the value that conspires to bring us together despite ourselves.

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