Love That Revenge in Kieslowski's White
directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski
at local theaters
In "White," the second of his three part series named of the colors of the French flag and based on the revolutionary call for liberty, equality and fraternity, director Krzysztof kieslowski has created a quirky comedy about the injustices and revengeful acts surrounding love.
The film stars Zbigniew Zamachowski as the over-grown boy of a man, Karol Karol. Like "Blue," the first movie in this series, "White" begins with the ending of a marriage. In the case of "Blue," Julie's husband and daughter are killed and she must seek and define her own sense of liberty. In "White," Karol's wife Dominique (played by the stunningly beautiful to-die-for Julie Delpy) divorces him, claiming their marriage has not been consummated. With Karol's pathetic, meek confirmation of this fact, he ends his marriage and loses everything: his wife, her love, his car, his hairdressing business, but above all, his dignity. He meets the impassive Mikolaj (played by Jenusz Gajos) who agrees to take him back to Poland in a suitcase if he will return the favor by performing a sort of euthanasia upon their arrival. They have a deal.
As the film continues, Karol surrepticiously (and illegally) makes a fortune and includes Mikolaj in the spoils. His first and foremost concern, his driving force, his incentive which incites him to mask his own death and create a new identity for himself, is to avenge himself and frame his wife--because he loves her so much.
The ending, one of the most ambiguous and unclear I have seen in many years, would seem to prove that she enjoys his revenge because she, too, has finally admitted that she is still in love with him. From a prison cell she communicates to him as he watches her in binoculars. Just before her arrest they have, for the first time in months, successfully had sex. Despite the tears streaming down both their faces, he has gotten his revenge and they are both happy.
Since Karol was potent before they were married and is capable of performing after the divorce, the director Kieslowski is definitely trying to say something about marriage. He is using marriage as a forum for exercising power and revenge. This is one of the many unique characteristics of the story Kieslowski has created.
Instead of emphasizing the chase and ending with the fairy tale "happy ever after," Kieslowski extends beyond the "happy ever after" to see what comes in the "after." This explosion of the traditional folk tale may be called post-modern or deconstuctionist by some, but these cocktail conversation words seem too obscure to describe what he is doing here. The subtlety of Kieslowski's plot is where the beauty of this film radiates. The viewer only realizes after the film is over the idiosyncratic nature of the events which have unfolded. They have unfolded simply and smoothly, without crash or crescendo, making the story believable. This story could not be told in some fairy tale because this fairy tale is real life. These are what real people do. These are the motives which cause real people to act, to weep, to have sex, and ultimately to suffer.
In comparison to "Blue" with its melancholic and somber tone, "White" is a black comedy of quirkiness and creativity. When the person Karol has agreed to kill turns out to be Mikolaj, we are not really surprised. The sense of voyeurism accomplished with Karol watching his own funeral or looking through binoculars at his ex-wife in prison do not overtly strike the viewer as unusual. But combined, these and other scenes slowly converge to form Kieslowski's unique way in which to tell his love story.
In addition, the wonderfully stimulating filming techniques which Kieslowski employed in "Blue" disappear here. He is more interested in the story than on overindulging this reviewer's taste for the visual.
This does not mean that Kieslowski does not use his visual talent. He steps into Karol's memory on occasion, replaying his reel-to-reel vision of walking from the marriage altar and stepping into the sun with Dominique. Her kiss always ends this sequence of hazy golden light and crinolin.
Marriage, the end of it and the avoidance of it, seems to be a theme which ties "White" with "Blue." Julie in "Blue" was sentenced by Fate to solitude. She claimed it as independence. In "While," Karol reclaims the power he has lost with the end of his marriage and uses his sex as a bargaining tool. Again, this is a liberation of sorts from the traditional role which assigns women the role of using sex for power. Here the usual is reversed and a new story unfolds. Karol cannot maintain his marriage because of his impotence. He is not allowed to stay with her. So he uses his sex to seek his revenge.
As the theme "equality" indicates, this is a film about justice. Whether defined as revenge or due recompense, the film fulfills the goal it has been based upon.
Kieslowski has made a solid, strong continuation to his trilogy. Ultimately, "White" tells a story of love, devotion and justice. Krzysztof Kieslowski is a very talented director and no artist can be expected to top themselves over and over.