Since its release in 1993-1994, Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colors Trilogy has been recognized as a landmark in international cinema, the trio of films intertwining to tell desperate stories linked by the principals represented by the French flag.  Liberty, equality and fraternity are the themes driving Blue (1993) White and Red (both 1994) respectively, the movies linked in a cursory yet meaningful way, their main characters intersecting in seemingly random ways. However, there is nothing random in Kieslowski’s universe as each tragedy, action or mistake creates a ripple effect that has unforeseen circumstances both large and small. This interconnectivity is the avenue through which the viewer not only navigates the stories but becomes emotionally invested. The foibles, troubles and triumphs the characters experience are relatable as Kieslowski takes the time to delve into the most intimate details of his characters, exposing commonly held wants and desires. Whether it be the need to mourn, the desire for revenge or the necessity of friendship, the films offer up situations that are universally recognized and felt, a satisfying, cathartic experience available to anyone willing to embark on this challenging and rewarding cinematic voyage.

Juliette Binoche staked her claim as an international, art house movie star with her devastating turn in Blue. Her portrayal of a widow who loses her husband and young daughter in a car accident is a portrayal of quiet rage, much of her power coming from her barely contained stillness, her grief threatening to shatter her at any moment. Intent on committing emotional suicide, her efforts to disconnect with the past are thwarted by the most unexpected of events, Binoche conveying myriad emotions with a fierce subtlety that proves far more effective than any melodramatic scene-rending.

Distinctly different in tone, White focuses on the push-and-pull nature in the marriage of Polish hair stylist Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski) and French shop owner Dominique (Julie Delpy). Suing him for divorce, she claims he never consummated the marriage, a humiliating charge for him to face in court, the situation made only worse when she cuts him off from his money and he’s forced to survive on the streets of Paris. However, fate lends a hand – multiple times actually – and before you know it, Karol is a man of means who sets out to execute a grand act of revenge with his ex as the target. The final scene does little to clarify the complex emotions that exist between them though it confirms that they deserve one another.

Perhaps the most complex of the trilogy, Red tackles a great many themes, chief among them the way we connect, the most powerful of these connections being those between people who seemingly have little in common. Fate conspires to have model Valentine (Irene Jacob) cross paths with a bitter, retired judge (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and a new judge (Jean-Pierre Lorit) as well. The less said about how their lives intertwine that better, discovering these connections on your own being part of the joy of watching the film.  The overarching message of Red forces you to consider the so-called “random” nature of life and realize that nothing that occurs is truly by accident.

While Criterion consistently puts together marvelous supplements for each film they curate, the material they cull together for this package is truly remarkable. A documentary on Kieslowski as well three short films he directed, The Tram (1966), Seven Women of Different Ages (1978) and Talking Heads (1980) in addition to three cinema lessons conducted by the filmmaker are included. Essays for each film as well as an overview of the trilogy are present in a handsome booklet supplemented by a myriad of interviews with Kieslowski’s frequent collaborators.

And while this edition had been a part of the Criterion Collection before, this remastered edition with each film presented in the 4K format helps to effectively drive home the themes in these films. The marked clarity of these images allows us to form a sense of intimacy with these characters that allows us to connect with them more powerfully and share in their emotional trials. Dense in meaning and technique, the Three Colors Trilogy is a work that requires multiple viewings in order to glean all Kieslowski intends to convey.  This package from Criterion serves as the perfect vehicle through which film lovers can revisit these remarkable films.

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