“It feels like something important is happening around me, and it scares me.”
I don’t know if you ever been surrounded by a set of coincidences and events that feel unexplainable. Exactly three years ago while on vacation, my partner and I went to Patagonia and set out early in the morning on a private guided hike of Torres del Paine. There were strong wind gusts, and our guide had encouraged us to walk with hiking sticks even if we were in flat areas. Most of the day it was just the three of us, but our paths kept crossing with those of a tourist from the Czech Republic who was by himself with a camera. Several times when I had arrived at a particular spot to see the sights, he would appear, take photos and quickly move on. Towards the end of the day, we ran into him for the fifth time in front of the three granite towers. The wind speed had picked up considerably. He took a photo standing close to us, and then I heard a thud. He’d fallen back and hit his head on a rock. We were hours from the nearest hospital. The following day still shaken from the events, we flew to Santiago de Chile for a day on our way to a small hotel in the middle of wine country. An American couple from Florida and their teenage boys sat next to us. The next day, after a two hour drive we arrived at our new accommodations which only had 12 rooms. We were invited to attend a private reception for guests, and lo and behold the family we’d sat next to the night before were there. “There are no coincidences in life,” the husband told me.
In the early 1990s, Polish director Krzysztof Kieślowski set out to do three films that became known as “Three Colours Trilogy.” The films are named for the colors of the French flag and the themes of each film loosely play on the political ideals of the French Republic, liberty, equality and fraternity. Each stands on its own, and they’re not dependent on one another. They’re extraordinary films of confounding beauty that washes over you. After seeing a Kieślowski you know for certain that you’ve felt something, you’ve experienced something, you may not quite fully articulate it, but it’s profound. The final film, “Three Colours: Red” (1994) is a masterpiece, and if you only have time for one, I would start there. Kieślowski had declared that “Red” would be his last film, and it turned out to be so. He died of a heart attack after its release. His last work yielded three deserving Oscar nominations, for best director, best screenplay (which he co-wrote) and best cinematography. I will never forget seeing it. I was traveling with my mom in Madrid and I told her I wanted to sneak out and see it. She wanted to join me but I insisted it was a film she may not enjoy. After the movie ended, she was in her seat crying. She couldn’t explain why she was so moved. That’s the power of Kieślowski, whom I’ve always felt should be more of a household name. His “Decalogue” – a series of ten films inspired by the ten commandments, and “The Double Life of Veronique” make for transcendent, thought-provoking and irresistibly poetic cinema.
“Three Colours; Red” plays like a romantic mystery. Valentine (notice the name) is a model and student living in Vienna. Accidentally she hits a dog, named Rita, with her car and meets its owner, a retired judge who lives nearby. In her second visit to his home she discovers that he spends his days listening to people’s phone conversations. “People have a right to their secrets,” she tells him, upset about what he’s doing. “Why did you pick up Rita?” he asks from her. The two develop a platonic “fraternity” with each other.
Valenine is involved in an unhappy relationship with a possessive boyfriend who is currently in England. Across from her apartment, and unknown to her, lives a young man, Aguste, who is studying to be a judge and is romantically involved with a weather reporter who cheats on him. As Valentine becomes more fascinated with the judge, he tells her of a dream he had about her in the future where she’s very happy. Could the judge be a version of Auguste whom she hasn’t met yet?
Yes Kieslowski is dealing with metaphysics, but before you lose interest, I should tell you that this is one of the most hypnotic and gorgeous films you will ever see. At the forefront, we have two terrific performances from Irene Jacob as Valentine and legendary Jean Louis Trintignant as the Judge. The latter’s role reminds me of Prospero in “The Tempest” in the way he seems to have control over the fate of the other characters. And yes, there’s a storm at the end of the film. The mise-en-scene is something to luxuriate in. Cinematographer Piotr Sobociński creates a dreamlike atmosphere in a seemingly realistic environment – incorporating the color red in every frame. Crane shots connect Valentine’s apartment and travel across the street towards Aguste. The camera will track near misses between the two characters – like both of them listening at a record store – back to each other, with headphones dangling from the ceiling. Talk about articulating connectivity. The opening shot follows telephone lines across the city. One particular scene takes place towards the end inside a theatre where Valentine has just done a fashion show is a stunner. The camera will travel from the balcony to the orchestra – godlike – showing the power of destiny itself.
Valentine : “Do your dreams come true?”
The Judge : “It’s been years since I dreamt something nice.”
Available to stream on HBO Max, Kanopy and The Criterion Channel and to rent on Apple TV+, iTunes and Amazon Prime.
Written and Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski
Starring Irène Jacob, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Frédérique Feder and Jean-Pierre Lorit,
About Director of Photography Piotr Sobocinski
He was born in Warsaw to cinematographer Witold Sobocinski and graduated from the State Theatrical and Film College in Lodz. He then became cinematographer for such films as “Lawa” by Tadeusz Konwicki, “Magnate” and “Bal na dworcu w Koluszkach” by Filip Bajon, and “Seventh Room” by Marty Meszaros. However, it was Kieslowski who had the greatest impact on his artistic development and personality. They made two of the “Decalogue” films together and later on “Red.” From the mid-1990s, Sobocinski worked in the United States. He did the filming for “Marvin’s Room” by Jerry Zacks, with Meryl Streep and Leonardo DiCaprio, “Ransom” by Ron Howard with Mel Gibson, and “Twilight” by Robert Benton with Paul Newmen, Susan Sarandon and Gene Hackman…He worked closely with Krzysztof Kieslowski and was nominated for an Oscar for his filming for “Three Colors: Red.” (variety.com) Sobocinski passed away in 2001 after suffering from a heart attack while filming Luis Mandoki’s “Angel Eyes.”
About Composer Zbigniew Preisner
Zbigniew Preisner (b. 1955) is Poland’s leading film music composer and is considered to be one of the most outstanding film composers of his generation. For many years Preisner enjoyed a close collaboration with the director Krzysztof Kieslowski and his scriptwriter Krzysztof Piesiewicz. His scores for Kieslowski’s films “No end,” “Dekalog,” “The Double Life Of Veronique,” “Three Colours Blue,” “Three Colours: White” and “Three Colours: Red” have brought him international acclaim. Preisner has scored many feature films including Hector Babenco’s “At Play In The Fields Of The Lord,” “Foolish heart,” “My Hindu Friend,” Louis Malle’s “Damage,” Luis Mandoki’s “When A Man Loves A Woman,” Agnieszka Holland’s “Europa Europa,” “Olivier Olivier,” “The Secret Garden,” “Charles Sturridge’s Fairytale: A True Story,” Thomas Vinterberg’s “It’s All About Love,” Jean Becker’s “Eliza,” “Effroyables jardins,” Soren Kragh-Jacobsen “The Island on Bird Street,” Claude Miller’s “Un Secret,” Max Färberböck’s “Anonyma,” Kriszta Deak’s “Aglaja.” Camilo Cavalcante’s “The History of Eternity,” Mitchell Lichtenstein’s “Angelica,” Fernando Trueba’s “Queen of Spain,” “Forgotten we’ll be,” Jonas Matzow Gulbrandsen’s “Valley of Shadows,” Feng Mei’s “Love song” 1980. “Requiem for My Friend,” Preisner’s first large-scale work specially written for recording and live performance, is dedicated to the memory of Krzysztof Kieslowski. Originally released on Erato Disques (Warner Classics) in October 1998, the work received its world premiere at the Teatr Wielki, Warsaw, on the 1st October 1998. The album has been rereleased on CD and vinyl by Sony Poland. Preisner’s second large-scale work is “Silence, Night and Dreams,” for orchestra, choir and soloists, based on texts from the “Book of Job.” The recording features the voice of Teresa Salgueiro (from “Madredeus”) and was released worldwide on EMI Classics in 2007. The world premiere of the work took place on 4th September 2007 in the Herodion Theatre on the Acropolis in Athens.
Other CD releases include “10 Easy Pieces for Piano,” “Moje Koledy,” “Preisner’s Voices and Danse Macabre,” “W poszukiwaniu dróg Stare i nowe kolędy, 2016 Dokąd?,” “Twilight.” In 2005, Preisner was commissioned by David Gilmour to arrange nine of songs on his album “On An Island” for a 40-piece string orchestra. The album was released worldwide in 2006 and Preisner conducted the string section of the Polish Baltic Philharmonic Orchestra in these arrangements at the concert on Gilmour’s 2006 tour, at the shipyards in Gdansk, Poland. A live recording and film were made of the event and versions of these have been released in several formats and packages under the title Live In Gdansk. Gilmour and Preisner met again on the occasion of the work on Gilmour’s album “Rattle That Lock,” released in 2015. Zbigniew Preisner conducted the NFM Orchestra during Gilmour’s concert in Wroclaw in June 2016. A new stage in Preisner’s work began in 2013. At that time Preisner released the album “Diaries of Hope” which began his close collaboration with Lisa Gerrard. They performed together in Wroclaw, London, Istanbul and Shanghai. They also met several times in the studio, while recoding music for the films “Lies We Tell” and “Valley of Shadows” or for the album “Melodies of my youth” that was released worldwide in 2019, as well as on stage during the concerts “Here and Now” (2014), and “2016 Dokad?” and Preisner’s Music concerts including the anniversary concert of Zbigniew Preisner that took place on October 5th 2019 in Tauron Arena, Krakow. Preisner records and mixes all his film scores and albums at his own studio in Poland. His recent works as producer of music include “Earthshine,” the second album by the post-rock band Tides From Nebula and two albums by the jazz pianist Leszek Mozdzer, “Time and Between Us” And “The Light.”
Among many awards and citations Preisner received the Silver Bear from the Berlin Film Festival in 1997, two Césars from the French Film Academy – one in 1996 for Jean Becker’s “Elisa,” and one in 1995 for “Three Colours Red” – and three consecutive citations as the year’s most outstanding composer of film music in The Los Angeles Critics Association Awards of 1991,1992 and 1993. In October 2008 he was honoured by the International Eurasia Film Festival with an award for his contribution to Cinema and the Arts. In 2016 his music for film “The History of Eternity” was awarded the Cinema Brazil Grand Prize. In February 2017 he received the Special Award from the Polish Society of Cinematographers for his gift for composing film music that creates deeper understanding and additional dimensions for each story. In September 2018 during 34th Haifa International Film Festival he received Lifetime achievement award for Outstanding Artistic Contribution to Music for Films. Preisner also received the Award of the Minister of Foreign Affairs for outstanding achievements in the presentation of Polish Culture abroad, the Officer’s Cross of the Order of the Rebirth of Poland from the President of Poland, and the Gold Medal Gloria Artis from the Polish Minister of Culture. Preisner is a member of the French Film Academy. (preisner.com)
About Writer and Director Krzysztof Kieslowski
Mr. Kieslowski was born in Warsaw on June 27, 1941. He spent his childhood moving from town to town, depending on where his father, an engineer suffering from tuberculosis, could find treatment. In 1957 he began studying theater technology, and in 1964 he entered the prestigious Lodz Film School. He made his television debut five years later with a documentary, “The Photograph,” and for several years following worked for WFD, a documentary studio. In 1974, he joined the Tor film production company, becoming its director in 1984. During the 1970’s he was part of a group of filmmakers who called their work “the cinema of moral anxiety.” “On the one hand,” he explained, “there was a totalitarian system which put boundaries on everything, but on the other, there was a will that everything in the system should be good, including culture.” Among the several documentaries he made in the 1970’s, the most famous was “Workers ’71,” about a labor strike in Szczecin. Another, “First Love,” won the Golden Dragon Prize at the International Festival of Short Films in Cracow in 1974. His first feature film, “Personnel,” was made for television in 1975. It won first prize at the Mannheim Festival in Germany. He also directed a number of theatrical productions, including his own play, “Biography,” at the Stary Theater in Cracow, in 1978. His first feature film for the cinema, “The Scar,” came in 1976. “Camera Buff” which won the grand prize at the Moscow and Chicago Film Festivals in 1979, distilled his morally ambiguous vision. It tells the story of an amateur film maker who buys a camera to record the growth of his newborn baby.
His homemade films go on to win prizes, but his obsession with film making destroys his marriage. It was followed in 1981 by “Blind Chance.” Made during the rise of the Solidarity movement but banned for six years after the declaration of martial law in December 1981, it examines the three varying destinies that await a young medical student depending on whether or not he catches a train. In 1984, Mr. Kieslowski teamed up with Krzysztof Piesiewicz, a prominent Warsaw attorney, who became his long-term screenwriting collaborator, to make “No End.” The two also worked together on “The Decalogue,” “The Double Life of Veronique” (1990), and finally on “Three Colors.” In 1994, Mr. Kieslowski announced his retirement from film making because, he said, he believed that literature could achieve what cinema couldn’t. But Zbigniew Preisner, who wrote the music for most of his films, said the director was planning future projects at the time of his death. Mr. Kieslowski did, however, take a cautious pride in “Red.” “I think we have shown a way of thinking a little bit differently than film normally does,” he said. “In film, every moment is clear, but in literature everything becomes clear when you finish the book.” (nytimes.com)