Three Colors: Red (French: Trois couleurs : Rouge) is the final film of The Three Colors Trilogy. It is also the last film in the director, Krzysztof Kieślowski’s life. At the end of the Red, he let all the characters from The Three Colors Trilogy survive from the storm, but he died suddenly in reality. He ended his film career with a fraternal and affectionate color “red”. In Red, Kieślowski takes the Platonic view that each individual has a complementary other, without whom there will always be a sense of loss or isolation in the world (Michalski). Joseph Kern (Jean-Louis Trintignant) is the main character who was created by Kieślowski to present how one individual has a complementary other, Auguste Bruner (Jean-Pierre Lorit). Through this film, Kieślowski’s essential question is “is it possible to repair a mistake which was committed somewhere high above?” The mistake is that, in the beginning, Joseph Kern doesn’t believe in fraternity and love.
Valentine (Irène Jacob) is a model who runs over a dog named Rita, and seeks out its owner, Joseph Kern. This is the scene when we first meet Joseph Kern, a retired judge. Tracking in and panning with a gazing view, the camera is shooting from Valentine’s perspective and moving through the dark corridor in Joseph’s house. We can feel we’re walking through the corridor as if we are Valentine because a tracking shot creates the feeling that the audience is moving toward the objects in the film (Video). In the end of the corridor, surrounded by some warm-color lamps and clutter and numerous books, Joseph is sitting with his back to Valentine. He is in front of a cold and giant machine, showing unconcern for the dog and her. This scene ends with him peeping on Valentine from the window when she is leaving. The first impression Joseph gives us is that he’s cold, rude but mysterious. The plots which follow prove our impression.
After letting the viewers know that the machine he is always sitting in front of is for telephone eavesdropping, Valentine and Joseph have a long debate. Taking advantages of eyeline matching, the shots switch back and forth from Valentine to Joseph fluently through their eye-contacts. It makes the long debate not boring in visual. Additionally, a lot of movements of pointing, such as using the remote control to play the telephone recording, which play roles as the vectors, also makes the process of debate motional. During one part of their debate, Valentine shows her willingness to help a lonely mother do some shopping. Joseph Kern scorns her generous actions, saying people do good things only for themselves so that they won’t feel guilty. That’s why he also believes that Valentine is taking care of Rita only to make herself feel better. Additionally, telephone eavesdropping on his own neighbor also represents who he is now. There is one sentence in Bible that says “Love your neighbor as yourself”, which is totally opposite of what he’s doing. Although he is cold and rude, he insists upon finding the truth.
After many years as a judge, he once decided wrongly for several cases which makes him feel bad. He still remembers the case he wrongly decided 35 years ago and even remembers exactly the time, around 5 pm. In that case, he acquitted a sailor before discovering he made a mistake. He has been ashamed for 35 year as he didn’t find out the truth in time. As a result, he believes it is easier and more obvious to get the truth from telephone calls rather than sitting in the court. He shakes his head at first when Valentine praises him and says, “you did right”, firmly. Valentine believes that Joseph saved that sailor in a different way by not arresting him. Because, after that case, the sailor married and had 3 children, living a fulfilled life. “You did a very good thing. You don’t understand? You saved him”, Valentine says. Joseph then compromises, saying that he just figured it out that the dividing line between what is right and wrong is decided by people’s minds. They point out this dividing line is fraternity. At the same time, the visible space between them shortens when Valentine moves to sit beside him. The talents’ blocking shrinks the visual space which suggests their beliefs about fraternity converge into the same one. Because of Valentine’s changing him through the film, he believes in fraternity again.
Although he is cold and denies love at first, he was born to be fraternal like Valentine. There is one scene zooms out from a two shot of Valentine and Joseph into a long shot. After zooming out into this long shot, Joseph is saying, “the most beautiful light will come in”. At the same time, the sunlight is shining into the house through the window, making a reflection on the floor. Joseph stands up and steps into the light. He is like a setting sun, bright but not dazzling, warm but not torrid. He is a gentle. When Valentine invites him to the show, he shows up, wearing a black suit and driving an old Benz. He is thoughtful. After knowing when and where Valentine’s boat will pass by the English Channel, he makes a phone call to check the weather before she leaves. He is considerate. When his neighbors throw stones to break his windows, he is not angry like Valentine is. Understanding reduces anger. He forgives them as he puts himself into their shoes, saying “if I were them, I would do the same thing as I violate their privacy”. He is devoted not only to his job but also to love. He was using the pen his lover gave him for decades until it doesn’t work. After retiring, he still relates his life to the judge work. He’s smart. He can quickly put together the pieces of information that show that Valentine’s brother is taking drugs. He is like the motif, the setting sun, gentle and deep. At the end, he is sitting in the sunlight, tenderly hugging the little puppy.
The plots about Joseph, which are telling directly who he is, are limited. As the Kieslowski agreed with “each individual has a complementary other”, he used another man’s plots to make up both Auguste and Joseph’s whole stories. Krzysztof Kieslowski said, “Different people in different parts of the world can be thinking the same thoughts at the same time. It's an obsession of mine: that different people in different places are thinking the same thing but for different reasons. I try to make films which connect people.” Auguste is a complementary character of Joseph and Joseph is the person when Auguste become older would be. We could get knowledge of what Joseph was experiencing and thinking through the plots about Auguste. It is the same destiny repeating for Joseph and Auguste that after being betrayed by their lovers, they do not believe in love. The frequent usage of mirror and glasses represents theis same theme, as the viewer can see the character has their reflection in the same frame at the same time. Several shots of Valentine take advantage of that.
Although Auguste will make the same mistake like Joseph did, Kieślowski created the character, Valentine to make up it which shows that repairing “a mistake which was committed somewhere high above” is possible. Joseph Kern believes in fraternity again because of Valentine’s influence. After Valentine meets Auguste on the boat, she will begin to influence him in their story. Stepping back from the film, the viewer in their own life would make the same mistake as Joseph did and Auguste would do for some reasons. However, the existence of this film can always be a “Valentine”, saving them and making them feel what fraternity is. That is also what this film do to me.