99bearThreeColoursWhitePolish films have a special place in my heart. This one in particular.

My best friend since kindergarten was Polish, and therefore, I spent a lot of time within their household, eating golabki and pierogi, and learning how to speak the “dirty words.”  I grew up loving Poland soo much that I made two trips!  During the second trip, I was enrolled at the Catholic University in Lublin.  It was there, after watching A Short Film About Love (Krotki Film O Milosci) that I fell in love with the style of Kieslowski.  White (Bialy) I viewed when I returned to the States and it blew my mind.

White is the story of Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski) and his wife Dominique (Julie Delphy).  Shortly after they are married in Paris, Dominque files for divorce based on Karol’s inability to consummate the marriage.  Karol is left homeless and broke on the streets of Paris when he meets Mikolaj (Janusz Gojos), a fellow Pole, who helps him return to Poland.  Once in Poland, Karol uses all opportunities to become wealthy and sets forth on a masterful plan.  [no spoiler] Watch the film.

One of the many geniuses of this film is its use of symbolism.  The trilogy, of which White is the middle, is called Three Colors (Trzy Kolory) and represents both the colors of the French flag (Blue, White, and Red) and the what each color stands for; liberty, equality and fraternity.  The color white is artistically placed in nearly every scene, from Karol’s white-washed wedding recollection to the doves Karol pleasantly admires on the courtroom steps to the dove’s poop that lands on his shoulder only seconds later.

Karol (his full name is Karol Karol) is both a comical figure and a heroic one.  He’s kind-hearted and romantic, but in life, he has gotten “the short end of the stick.”  Even his name conjures a giggle as it would be the same as someone named Charlie Charlie.  Not the sort of name expected for a story’s protagonist.  Karol is a foreigner and has difficulty communicating in France.  However, in Poland, Karol is a king (not literally – but is a well-known, award-winning hairdresser), loved and respected.  The color of white is associated more with Karol because he is “innocent” and (after he returns to Poland) is on the verge of a “rebirth.”  This change that Karol undergoes will be the master stroke to “level the playing field” between himself and Dominique.  Thus, bringing “equality” to the relationship.

Dominique is symbolized by the color red (which is often a dark red/maroon).  Dominique is superficial, passion-driven and, at times, heartless.  Red is the symbol for sex, the heart/passion, and of solidarity (and obviously of “Satan”).  We see in White, that Karol cannot escape the passion for Dominique and finds ways to connect, for example; his suitcase is a dark red (symbolic of Dominique/France), the car that he buys when he becomes wealthy is red, he practices his french pronunciations at night, and delicately stares at a porcelain bust that he stole in France (that undoubtedly reminds him of her).

White, the first of the Joyce Reviews to earn a 10 bear claw rating, does so through sheer force of character.  This, Kieslowski’s second-to-last film (he died two years later at the age of 56), has a depth and vulnerability that is seldom achieved in films of today.  Annette Insdorf, admirer of Kieslowski and author of Double Lives, Second Chances: The Cinema of Krzysztof Kieslowski said this of him:

Kieslowski truly loved his characters and invites us into a poignant awareness of both our limitations and our capacity for transcendence… and you can feel that in the tenderness of every frame.


One Response to “WHITE/BIALY/BLANC :: FOREIGN :: 013”

  1. I thought the movie was a tad slow. However, reading your review, I see why you rate it 10 stars for the artistic qualities. I realize now how much critiquing a movie can be like critiquing a book. So I have a new-found appreciation in this movie that I hadn’t had before. It was interesting I will say so that at least kept me going when I watched it. Overall, I thought it was a creative story with a great ending. 🙂

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