Three Colors: White

4 commentsFilm

Post-Com­mu­nist Poland through Kieślowski’s (and Karol’s) eyes.

Karol is down on his luck. As a Pol­ish man liv­ing in Paris dur­ing the ear­ly 1990’s, he finds him­self with very few choic­es when one day, almost out of the blue, his French wife decides to dump him. She takes him to court and leaves him pen­ni­less and des­ti­tute. Almost overnight, Karol has lost his bar­ber­shop and, worse, the woman he loves more than every­one and everything.

Shiv­er­ing with cold, he spends his nights in Paris metro sta­tions, play­ing tunes on a hair-comb for change. One night, a man rec­og­nizes a Pol­ish folk song among Karol’s reper­toire and intro­duces him­self as Mikołaj, a fel­low Pole on his way to his home­land. The two men strike up a con­ver­sa­tion and soon Mikołaj offers to smug­gle him back to Poland. The diminu­tive Karol squeezes into a red leather suit­case, through which Mikołaj cuts a cou­ple of air-holes, and he becomes a piece of air­plane luggage.

Sev­er­al hours lat­er at the bag­gage carousel of War­saw Air­port, Mikołaj watch­es with increased con­cern as every oth­er suit­case chugs out and is car­ried off. His red leather suit­case nev­er arrives. Instead, it sits atop a pile of oth­er suit­cas­es in the back of a pick­up truck dri­ving along a snowy hill­top. The truck snakes its way down the hill until it comes to a stop in a des­o­late clear­ing by a lake. Three men jump out and pull down their loot, among it the red suit­case. “This one’s heavy!” one of them exclaims as they greed­i­ly seize upon it and zip it open.

To their sur­prise, out rolls Karol, his joints locked in a fetal posi­tion. Dis­ap­point­ed and furi­ous, they kick and toss him around until he rolls to the lake, face bloody, lips torn. As the loot­ers dri­ve off, Karol stands and brush­es the snow off his clothes. He scans the des­o­late white land­cape, then smiles and says: “Home at last.”

At that moment I hit the pause but­ton on my VCR and went out for a walk. That day I decid­ed I want to make movies.

Direct­ed by Krzysztof Kieślows­kiStar­ring Zbig­niew Zama­chows­ki, Janusz Gajos and Julie Delpy

This is the open­ing act of Kieślowski’s White, the mid­dle install­ment of his Three Col­ors Tril­o­gy. He remains my favorite film­mak­er and the only per­son out­side my fam­i­ly whose untime­ly death made me cry.


Alexandre FABBRI March 4, 2011 at 7:22 am

Kieslowski's favourite of the trilogy (because it was a love story).

Alexandre FABBRI

Meedo March 4, 2011 at 1:43 pm

Thanks for sharing. I didn't know that. It's definitely the least acclaimed of the three, I suspect because of its often-misidentified main theme. It's as much a story of love for a woman as for a nation on the cusp of change.

White is one of my all-time favorites and definitely a film that couldn't have been made by anyone else, especially given its director's very dry comic sensibilities and his roots in non-fiction filmmaking.

Alexandre Fabbri March 6, 2011 at 4:35 am

Well, it has nothing to do with a nation on the cusp of change. Certainly not Poland. Kieslowski would have laughed at the suggestion.

Meedo March 6, 2011 at 11:08 am

Good then. At least I'd have made someone I care about laugh.

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