Monday, September 22, 2008

THREE COLORS: WHITE (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1994, France) WHITE allows Karol Karol the absurd protagonist, like Nabokov’s Humbert Humbert, to impose his own cruel justice upon his malignant obsession. In LOLITA, Humbert destroys Clare Quilty, the abductor of his own deviant fixation while Karol destroys Dominique who is the thief of his manhood. The color white is more indicative of Karol’s surrender to this compulsion for vengeance than it is gaining equality because her punishment seems too harsh. Her dominance is obvious in the beginning courtroom drama and her later threats to frame him for burglary; she also maliciously taunts his supine physique. She leaves Karol alone and undefended in a strange country, barely able to speak the language, and does so seemingly without remorse. But Karol is a survivor and a chance meeting gives him a new start on life. Kieslowski’s second film of the THREE COLORS trilogy seethes with a dark sprightly humor, and the irreverent narrative stretches credibility but draws moral boundaries like plots on a surveyor’s map. Karol walks the fringes of criminality but never seems to be a despicable person; he always appears the eternal victim, acted upon by uncontrollable outside forces. When he finally gains success, it is through his own inventiveness though he takes advantage of “country-bumpkin” landowners. His rise from the gutter to glitter is mostly luck and circumstance; his choice to sacrifice his empire is nothing short of sadistic revenge. Again, Kieslowski floods the film in the titular color; snowy landscapes and the pale empty sky are omnipresent. Superficially, this film is the most playful of the trilogy but it seeks to poison this palette: WHITE is innocence, purity and cleanliness smudged with the blackest of intentions. Though he sheds a tear at the end, it is an ambiguous emotion, its intent undefined. Karol’s revenge is a dish best served cold…like ice. (B)

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