“Who are you?” Valentine Dussaut (Irène Jacob, incandescent), a young model, asks Joseph Kern, a much older man she wonders about. His answer, “A retired judge,” tells her what she already knows. Is he more than that?
The conclusion of a trilogy, Krzysztof Kieślowski’s last film, Trois couleurs: Rouge, takes as its principal motif the color of France’s national flag denoting fraternity. The film is set in Geneva and heads at the last, by ferry, to England. Even without France, there’s a lot of fraternity in it, at least in the sense of crisscrossed connections and common destinies. This is a haunting movie.
When her distracted driving leads to her hitting a dog, the dog’s collar leads Valentine to Rita’s owner: the embittered retired judge whose life long on-hold her freshness and warmth will move out of dormancy. (The dog, thanks to veterinary attention and stitching, is fine—and pregnant.) Jean-Louis Trintignant remarkably enacts, perhaps, the role of God, here painfully reduced to the dimensions of a retired judge who imprisoned a former romantic rival and electronically eavesdrops on neighbors. Trintignant imbues this diminished Heavenly Father with an afterglow of grandeur. In the meantime, Valentine is disgusted by the judge’s hobby; this is why he turns himself in.
The judge has dreamt that Valentine fifty years hence will be waking up and smiling at some man. Could he be her neighbor, the young judge Auguste Bruner, who almost seems a version of Kern caught in a time warp? Have they met? Will they meet?
A tragedy at sea takes more than a thousand lives. Among the survivors are characters from earlier in the trilogy—and guess who else.
The closing shot of Valentine eerily echoes an ad for which she earlier modeled against a red backdrop.
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