As the third and final film in the Trois Couleurs Trilogy by Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieslowski, Rouge is a magnificent achievement and for me, it is the most moving and inspiring of the trilogy I credit to be amongst the greatest ever conceived.
Valentine Dusot (Irene Jacob) is a professional fashion model living in Geneva, dividing her time between catwalks and chewing-gum campaigns. But, she also lives a lonely life separated from her possessive boyfriend (currently working abroad) and her troubled family. Valentine’s life takes a turn when, distracted by her faulty radio, hits a dog with her car. After initially reacting to the embittered old man with disgust, Valentine returns to his home on several occasions and shares philosophical discussions, with Joseph offering guidance by revealing to her his intriguing past.
Shortly after making this film, the 53 year-old Kieslowski – whose career also included masterpieces like Camera Buff, The Double Life of Veronique, The Dekalog, Bleu and Blanc – announced that it would be his last. His sudden death in 1996 made this extraordinary film even more significant.
The daring denouement doesn’t just unite the various plot strands in the film, but it also brings in the main characters from the preceding two films. In the scheme of the whole trilogy, it is an unbelievably satisfying way to end Kieslowski’s career, and involves a shot that brings me to tears every time.
Rouge, like Bleu and Blanc preceding it, examines one of the French revolutionary ideals. It is about ‘fraternity’, exploring the way that lives can become randomly connected through ‘coincidence’ and ‘chance’ and the unlikely bond between two people who seem to have little in common. Events that take place in this film seem to occur purely through coincidence, but simultaneously as if they were destined to occur.
Irene Jacob/Jean-Louis Trintignant
Jacob, whose beautiful performance in The Double Life of Veronique won her the Best Actress Award at Cannes, gives another stellar, nuanced performance. She relies on subtle tics and facial expressions to reveal her despair at her hapless relationship, the initial disgust she feels towards the judge and later, and her delight in sharing secrets with him. She is completely compelling. Trintignant is also engaging as the crusty, cynical and world-weary judge, challenging viewers to desire to dig deeper into his intriguing character.
This is a film that makes you feel alive as you are watching it. How much do we value the influence of chance and coincidence in our lives? What would have happened if Valentine had never hit the dog and her and Joseph had not stumbled across one another? What would have happened if Valentine’s lock hadn’t been blocked with gum that day? But each of these things did happen, and that is extraordinary. It feels completely natural; it makes you feel like every single event could have special significance. That is pretty special.
Andrew Buckle - follow Andy on Twitter here: @buckle22