Monday, January 23, 2012

Three Colors: White (Krzysztof Kieslowski)

The secret in his eyes.

A slight departure from "Three Colors: Blue's" transcendent and melancholic tone, Krzysztof Kieslowski's "Three Colors: White", representing the middle color in the French flag which symbolizes the virtue of equality, is humorous in its study of sexual weakness and subsequent redemption. The film opens with a trial scene involving Karol Karol (Zbiegniew Zabachowski), a hairdresser who has, ever since his marriage with his wife Dominque (Julie Delpy), failed to sexually consummate their love.

With his numerous insecurities and sexual inferiority plaguing their marriage and also are the things that are responsible for putting him on the pitiful end of a divorce, just like Julie's isolation in "Three Colors: Blue", he has withdrawn himself from the main stream of existence. But this time, this isolation is never a strengthened choice. Pushed into the streets with a frozen bank account and only a large, almost empty suitcase to live with, he is a definitive image not of emotional bravery (unlike Julie) but of defeat.

But as fate permits it, he meets Mikolaj (Janusz Gajos), initially a mysterious Polish lad who has soon became his friend. Unlike the previous film which broods about loneliness and repeatedly hints on isolated sadness, our protagonist here in "Three Colors: White" is also a lonely little chap but with a trusted pal. Although of course inserted by Kieslowski more importantly as an initial plot device (this film is, after all, the most plot-reliant of the trilogy), the Mikolaj character slowly transforms from being a hazy character with questionable intents into a surprisingly upbeat light that has been most instrumental for Karol's new lease on life, which is the same equivalent of what Karol is to Mikolaj. And in this friendship that was built in a time of utter tribulation, there's the cause of it all: Dominique.

Julie Delpy, who I have first seen in "Before Sunrise" as the intelligently vibrant and sweet Celine, is unbelievably cold and indifferent as Dominque. At times she even looks and feels like a femme fatale. But Kieslowski, veering away from the shallow dimensions of character stereotypes, treated Dominique not as the aggravator of the situation but also as a victim of circumstances. Just like every wife, Dominique only wants sexual and emotional fulfillment in her marriage. But Karol, ever the shy sexual weakling, never properly took on the role of an accommodating husband.

From what I've noticed, "Three Colors: White" was very well-known as a revenge film as much as it is recognized internationally as the only comedy film in the trilogy, albeit a dark one. For many, this certain 'revenge', planned by Karol to give Dominique her deserved comeuppance (the catalyst being the time when he has heard her pleasurably moaning on the phone, presumably while having sex with another man), is the poetic justice that the film is looking for on Karol's part for him to attain the signified 'equality' that the color 'white' is representing. But as I look more into it, the less I give a damn about Karol's so-called vengeance scheme.

Sure, it was, for a moment, very enlightening and emotionally purging for us because we have rooted for Karol in the film's entirety. Yes, we are supposed to, but we're not compelled by Kieslowski to overly do so because he has never overlooked to give dear Dominique her own share of a beating heart.

In the end, as I subconsciously decipher the pure significance of 'equality' in the whole film and as Karol gradually changes from a vulnerable sap into a relatively powerful businessman and a confident male, the more I think that it's not Karol's quest for revenge that is the real point of the film in terms of aligning itself with the color white's 'equality' symbolism but more significantly about how Dominique, being a good wife and all (the film shows how genuinely happy she is during their wedding), gets what she deserves: a Karol who's sure of himself, is sexually assertive, and knows what he wants.

In a way, I even think that when Dominique finally found out about Karol's vengeful scheme, sure she was shocked, but she's also silently elated. With the way how her husband has handled and cleverly played the situation to manipulate the situation to his advantage and set it against her, she has realized ever so unconsciously that Karol, at that very moment, has finally become a man, the one that she's waiting to love. This therefore creates equality between the ever- loving feminine (Dominique) and the now transformed masculine (Karol), making their marriage worth all the emotional pitfalls, the agony of sexual misgivings, and the pain of relational apathy.

So surprisingly, "Three Colors: White" is not just a one-sided tale of revenge but is also an exploration of the essential role masculinity plays in strengthening a marriage. Absurdist as the film may sometimes seems to be, Kieslowski still has offered a fresh take on the thorns and roses that populates not just the spacious boundaries of love, but also the bumbling and stumbling confines of life.


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