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Three Colors: White, 1994 – ★★★★

Spoilers follow.

Criterion Challenge 2022
Progress: 16/52
Prompt: Watch a movie made in Poland.

I chose this movie because I’ve been meaning to/feeling like I should see the Three Colors trilogy forever; I watched Three Colors: Blue earlier this year (because I can’t watch things out of order) and as I note in that review, man, wish I hadn’t waited so long.

It is true that White is not as good as Blue, but that’s a very high bar. As a standalone movie, I’d say it’s good but not great. Julie Delpy’s Dominique is a thin character. Zbigniew Zamachowski and Janusz Gajos compensate to some degree by being spectacular, but still, when the character on your movie poster is just an outline, there’s something missing.

Still, I like a good black comedy as much as the next person. I imagine Kieślowski smirking when he said this movie was about equality. There’s certainly a political aspect to that (Poland and France), and of course the movie’s about death as a transition. Everyone’s equal in the grave, right? But it’s also about the failure to achieve equality. Karol and Dominique don’t get there. Karol’s unable to get aroused until he’s won: the final shot isn’t all that romantic when you consider that Dominique discovers her love for him only once he’s… dominant. Hm.

(And are Mikołaj and Karol ever equal, or do they swap roles and statures midway through? Certainly the latter.)

Pausing a moment, and looping back: as part of a trilogy, this achieves greatness. The theme of death and potential death as a catalyst means more when you put it side by side with the death in Blue. I could think about the symbolism of white as equality all day, but I find it’s a richer question when I start wondering if Blue was about discovering liberty — or discovering that it’s not really the greatest goal.

I’m developing a theory that the trilogy is about transitions, and the catalytic nature of death I just mentioned. Can’t wait to watch Red.

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