White (Trois Couleurs: Blanc) Made in: Poland, France Languages: Polish, French Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski Starring: Zbigniew Zamachowski, Janusz Gajos, Julie Delpy Year: 1994
Synopsis: Nothing is quite as romantic as revenge.
The second of Kieslowski's Three Colors trilogy, White follows the misadventures of Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski), a very plain-looking but clever hairdresser from Poland. Not long after moving to Paris with his beautiful wife Dominique (Julie Delpy), Karol finds her wanting to divorce him on grounds that their marriage is unsatisfying to her.
Left only with a large suitcase and a comb, Karol finds himself broke (his bank account has been frozen) and homeless. By chance he befriends Mikolaj (Janusz Gajos), a fellow Pole with serious life issues of his own, who agrees to smuggle Karol back to Warsaw.
Once home, Karol moves back in with his brother, who's also a hairdresser. In serious need of money since their business can barely sustain them, Karol outsmarts a scheming black market lowlife and obtains several large plots of land in the countryside.
Quickly becoming a land baron, Karol reunites with his friend Mikolaj and the two create a successful business.
But all the while, Karol never stops thinking of Dominique. Using his newly realized wealth and power, Karol concocts an elaborate plan to win back his ex-wife while exacting revenge on her at the same time...
The Good: This is basically an underdog story, where the unlucky guy goes against all odds to try to win back the girl. But on a deeper level, White is about longing, and the desire for a type of fulfillment in life that our external circumstances can't provide.
With the use of many cinematic techniques (lighting, subject matter, dialog, etc) Kieslowski explores these universal themes in creative ways. He goes deep into the souls of his characters, yet manages to efficiently work their complex development into an interesting plotline.
The cast, particularly Zamachowski's portrayal of Karol, is very natural and easy for us to identify with. And Julie Delpy's Dominique is a powerful presence despite her limited screen time.
The Bad: I suppose the only problem I have is believing that Dominique and Karol ever became a pair in the first place. Although you find out how the two met, they are from different walks of life and how they fell in love is never quite explained.
Also, I might have missed something (and it may not matter) but I have no idea what Dominique does for a living.
Who would like this movie: Well, if you got through
and are curious to see how the rest of the trilogy plays out, White would be the next film to see.
But as I said in my piece about Blue, you'll appreciate this movie most if you're making a conscious effort to watch foreign films. This one is a little "lighter" than Blue, contains more humor, and for me, was easier to "get" than Blue.
If you like having lengthy discussions/debates about films and what they mean, White will provide you plenty of talking points. It's a pretty short film, and Kieslowski packs in a lot of information in just 88 minutes.
The movie does feel a little longer than that, though, but doesn't drag.
What you'll appreciate about Kieslowski is that he doesn't waste your time with extraneous material. Everything you are meant to see in this film is there for a reason.