Three Colours - White

France-Switzerland-Poland 1993, 91 mins
Director: Krzysztof Kieślowski

Kieślowski on ‘Three Colours: White’

Berlin: 15 February. White premieres in the festival, and turns out to be the trilogy’s scherzo: a black comedy about an unconsummated Polish-French marriage, a messy divorce and a problematic sexual-emotional reunion. The storyline intersects only very briefly with that of Blue (we now see that it was Zbigniew Zamachowski and Julie Delpy’s divorce hearing that Juliette Binoche nearly barged into when she went to the Paris courthouse to look for her late husband’s mistress), but both films climax with extremely emotive love scenes in which the protagonists overcome their mindsets and surrender to their hearts. The humour springs less from the tribulations of the central couple than from the accompanying picture of Poland in the 90s: a country of swindlers, strong-arm men and criminals where it is possible to buy anything at all, including a fresh Russian corpse.

Why a trilogy? Why isn’t one film enough?

Krzysztof Kieślowski: Because it makes everything more interesting. Differing points of view are inherently more interesting than one point of view. Since I don’t have any answers but do know how to pose questions, it suits me to leave the door open to varying possibilities. I realised this some years ago. I don’t want to pose as a relativist, because I’m not one, but I have to admit that there’s an element of relativism in play here.

Is White in some sense a parody of the other films in the trilogy, in the way that Decalogue 10 parodied aspects of that series?

You could see it that way. But I think Red is different in tone. It’s hard to put a handle on it.

Isn’t the ‘liberté, égalité, fraternité’ theme a pretext, just as the Ten Commandments were for Decalogue ?

Yes, exclusively that.

So you don’t lie awake at night worrying about such themes?

No, but I did spend a lot of time thinking about them.

How seriously do you discuss these things with your co-writer Krzysztof Piesiewicz?

We crack a lot of jokes. We talk about cars, about women. The conclusion we came to about equality is that nobody really wants it. Karol in White doesn’t want equality, he wants to be better than others.

Did anyone pressure you to make the three parts of the trilogy in different countries?

No, I did it this way because I wanted to. The issues these films raise are deeply rooted in European traditions, so it was natural to spread them around Europe. The production company helped us decide where to shoot, but nobody forced us.

This isn’t a case like The Double Life of Véronique , where there’s a material relationship between the financing and the structure of the story?

Actually, that film didn’t need to be a co-production between Poland and France. You could imagine it done with one girl living in Kraków and the other in Gdańsk. I didn’t frame the story of Véronique that way because of the financial background to the production; the subject itself was something close to my heart.

But the way you finally made the film did reflect the financing?

For sure. But this trilogy is a rather different case. I don’t think these storylines are as original as the one in Véronique, and anyway, these are mainly French films.

You have a strong sense of humour, but there isn’t much evidence of it in serious films like Véronique and Blue .

It’s true that I have a certain sense of… irony. Sometimes you have to laugh, but I think it’s worth trying to be serious from time to time. It’s difficult to do both at the same time, but I hope that White strikes the odd lyrical note. For example, the character Mikolaj, who wants to die – he’s kind of serious.

What’s the song Karol plays on the comb in the Metro?

A pre-war Polish song, every Pole knows it. It’s stupid and sentimental; we sing it when we drink. It goes: ‘This is our last Sunday, tomorrow we part forever…’ We become very sentimental when we drink.

White offers a fairly scathing picture of post-communist Poland.

Only in the background. But yes, that’s the way it is now – unfortunately.

You still live in Poland?

Yes. I see it with a certain bitterness. I’m not against Polish entrepreneurialism, but people now care for nothing but money. I don’t know what happened to us.

Do people in Poland resent the fact that you’re working abroad?

Patriots do, yes. Normal people, I hope don’t.

Who are these patriots? Do they have any power?

Nationalists, fascists, call them what you like. They’re a crazy minority, but they shout loudly enough to be heard. They have newspapers, and access to television.

Last year in Poland, I found a widespread desire to come to terms with the past – for example, the treatment of the Jews. But the election result suggested a nostalgia for the ‘security’ of the communist period…

What you say is evident, but I don’t think it’s just. For me, it wasn’t that the Left won, it was that the Right lost. That’s not the same thing. There’s no nostalgia for the Left. After 45 years of being told what was good and what was bad, Polish people have had enough of it. They don’t want someone else telling them the same story, even if the meanings are reversed. What happened was that they threw out the Right and the Church.

Do you see a way forward for Poland?

I think we have to die first, all of us. Eventually there will be new people with new ideas. It’s not just a generational change, it’s a matter of changing a way of thinking that has been inculcated for 45 years. I can’t see it taking less than two generations. Decades of Marxist education have left Poland unable to think in normal human terms. We can only think in terms of Left and Right.

Interview by Tony Rayns, Sight and Sound, June 1994

Director: Krzysztof Kieślowski
©: MK2 Productions, France 3 Cinéma, CAB Productions, Zespol Filmowy ‘Tor’
Production Companies: MK2 Productions, France 3 Cinéma, CAB Productions, Zespol Filmowy ‘Tor’
With the participation of: Canal+
Supported by: Eurimages Conseil de l’Europe
Executive Producer: Yvon Crenn
Presented by: Marin Karmitz
Production Executives (‘Tor’ Studio): Krzysztof Zanussi, Ryszard Straszewski, Irena Strzalkowska
Production Manager: Ryszard Chutkowski
Unit Managers/Administration: Krzystztof Staszweski, Wlodzimierz Dziatkiewicz, Joanna Pindelska, Andrzej Buhl, Malgorzata Powalka, Katarzyna Janus, Joanna Kadubiec, Malgorzata Witkowska, Caroline Lassa, Anne Guillemard, Jean Talvat, Gisèle Vuillaume, Aline Corneille, Olivier Bulteau, Nicolas Tempier, Dominique Lefevre
1st Assistant Directors: Teresa Violetta Buhl, Emmanuel Finkiel
2nd Assistant Directors: Pawel Lozinski, Maria Czartoryska, Adam Paplinksi, Peter Thurrell, Julie Bertucelli, François Azria, Stéphane Libiot
Assistant to the Director: Stan Latek
Script Supervisor: Geneviève Dufour
Casting: Margot Capelier, Teresa Violetta Buhl
Screenplay: Krzysztof Piesiewicz, Krzysztof Kieślowski
Screenplay Consultants: Agnieszka Holland, Edward Zebrowski, Edward Klosinski
Dialogue Translations: Marcin Latallo
Assistant Translator: Roman Gren
Director of Photography: Edward Klosinski
Lighting: Piotr Obloza, Sergiusz Bogucki, Marek Socha, Slawomir Grinka, Hans Meier, Ernst Brunner, Alain Dondin, Alain Dubouloz
Assistant Operators: Henryk Jedynak, Muriel Coulin
Grips: Zbigniew Koniuszy, Stanislaw Kolenda, Albert Vasseur, Alain Dreze
Stills: Piotr Jaxa
Editor: Urszula Lesiak
Assistant Editors: Ewa Lenkiewicz, Christian Phan-Trong Tuan, Alicja Torbus-Wosinska
Art Directors: Halina Dobrowolska, Claude Lenoir
Set Decorator: Magdalena Dipont
Set Dressers/Props: Tomasz Kowalski, Dariusz Lipinski, Henryk Puchalski, Michel Charvaz, Julien Poitou-Weber, Jean-Pierre Delettre, Christian Aubenque, Lionel Acat
Costumes: Elzbieta Radke, Teresa Wardzala, Jolanta Luczak, Virginie Viard
Make-up/Hairdressers: Jolanta Pruszynska, Jadwiga Cichocka, Jean-Pierre Caminade
Titles/Optical: Ercidan
Music: Zbigniew Preisner
Music Performed by: Sextuor à Cordes, Le Petit Orchestre de Zbigniew Preisner
First Violin: Zbigniew Paleta
Oboe: Mariusz Pedzialek
Clarinet: Jan Cielecki
Music Director: Zbigniew Paleta
Executive Music Producers: Halina Laciak, Preisner Production
Music Engineer: Rafal Paczkowski
Assistant Music Engineer: Leszek Kaminski
Sound Recordists: Brigitte Taillandier, Pascal Colomb
Sound: Jean-Claude Laureux
Sound Mixer: William Flageollet
Sound Editors: Piotr Zawadzki, Jean-Claude Laureux, Francine Lemaître
Sound Effects: Jérôme Levy, Pascal Mazière, Éric Ferret, Marc-Antoine Beldent
Stuntmen: Robert Brzezinski, Jozef Stefanski, Zbigniew Modej, Janusz Chlebowski, Ryszard Janikowski

Zbigniew Zamachowski (Karol Karol)
Julie Delpy (Dominique Vidal)
Janusz Gajos (Mikolaj)
Jerzy Stuhr (Jurek)
Grzegorz Warchol (elegant man)
Jerzy Nowak (old peasant)
Aleksander Bardini (lawyer)
Cezary Harasimowicz (inspector)
Jerzy Trela (Monsieur Bronek)
Cezary Pazura (bureau de change proprietor)
Michel Lisowski (interpreter)
Piotr Machalica (tall man)
Barbara Dziekan (cashier)
Marzena Trybala (Mariott employee)
Philippe Morier Genoud (judge)
Francis Coffinet (bank employee)
Yannick Evely (metro employee)
Jacques Disses (Dominique’s lawyer)
Teresa Budzisz Krzyzanowska (Madame Jadwiga)
K. Bigelmajer, J. Dominik, J. Grzegorek, M. Kaczmarska, A Kalinowski, S. Latek, J. Ladynska, M. Marciano, J. Mayzel, J. Modet, L. Okowity, A. Paplinksi, W. Paszkowski, M. Prazmowska, M. Robaszkiewicz, Z. Richter, B. Szymanska, B. Topa, W. Wroblewska, M. Verner, P. Zelt
Juliette Binoche (Julie)
Florence Pernel

France-Switzerland-Poland 1993©
91 mins

A Curzon release

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Programme notes and credits compiled by Sight and Sound & the BFI Documentation Unit
Notes may be edited or abridged
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