Critically-acclaimed trilogy of French/Polish drama films directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski (also the director of The Decalogue, Blind Chance, and The Double Life of Veronique), and released in relatively close proximity to each other in 1993 - 1994.
They are named after the three colors in the French flag: blue, white and red, and each has a corresponding color motif. They are each loosely based on one of the three French revolutionary principles of liberty, equality and fraternity. The trilogy are also interpreted respectively as an anti-tragedy, an anti-comedy, and an anti-romance.
Trzy kolory. Niebieski (English: Three Colors: Blue, French: Trois Couleurs: Bleu) (1993): Based on the principle of liberty. After a famous composer dies in a car crash, his wife Julie (Juliette Binoche) retreats into seclusion, but various contacts and issues in the outside world force her to emerge again.
Trzy kolory. Biały (English: Three Colors: White, French: Trois Couleurs: Blanc) (1994): Based on the principle of equality. After the beloved (French) wife (Julie Delpy) of Polish hairdresser Karol Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski) divorces him thus rendering him destitute, he makes it back to Poland, manages to make it big by blackmailing his bosses and then schemes to extract revenge on his wife.
Trzy kolory. Czerwony (English: Three Colors: Red, French: Trois Couleurs: Rouge) (1994): Based on the principle of fraternity. College student and part-time model Valentine Dusot (Irene Jacob) runs over the dog of retired judge Joseph Kern (Jean-Louis Trintignant), who spends his days eavesdropping on neighbors' phone calls. The two end up becoming friends.
These films provide examples of:
- Color Motif: In each film the color corresponding to the title is prominently featured. In Red, the billboards of Valentine all over Paris have her against a red background, and the theater where she has a modeling gig is all done up in red as well. In Blue, there is a "blue room" in Julie's mansion which is painted all blue.
- Continuity Nod: There are little details telling us the films are part of a same work, like characters from one movie making very brief cameos into another or old people recycling glass.
- At the end of Red, a fatal ferry crash has only a few survivors: all of the main characters from the trilogy. The Judge sees the news report on TV.
- Mythology Gag:
- Van den Budenmayer, a fictitious composer (even though he's treated as a real composer) mentioned in Blue and Red, was mentioned earlier in both The Decalogue (more precisely, Decalogue Nine) and The Double Life of Veronique. The main theme of Decalogue Nine (written by Van den Budenmayer in-world) is featured on two occasions in Red.
- There's also a re-use of a funeral march motif Preisner wrote for No End (his first collaboration with Kieslowski) as a prominent recurring musical theme in Blue. In there, this composition also gets ascribed to Van den Budenmayer.
- Rainbow Motif: Blue for liberty, White for equality, Red for fraternity, like in the French flag.
- Rule of Three: Obviously.
- The Shut-In: Julie in Blue, Kern in Red.
- Spiritual Successor: To The Decalogue. Just like that one, it's a series of seperate films that are all interconnected by cameos of characters and an overarching theme, with each film covering one seperate aspect of that theme (The Ten Commandments in the Decalogue and the ideals of the French Revolution in the Three Colors Trilogy).
- Thematic Series: The series revolves around specific French ideals as opposed to specific characters.
- Author Existence Failure: Patrice, in-universe.
- Babies Ever After: A curious Subversion of this trope, since the pregnant woman is the mistress of Patrice.
- Broken Bird / Defrosting Ice Queen: Julie. She's actually a very nice person at heart, but the loss she suffers makes her very cold and detached for much of the movie (which suits the film's very cold lighting).
- Downer Beginning: Julie's husband and little daughter are killed in a car wreck which she survives.
- Fade to Black: Used to represent Julies difficulty in moving on. It's an extremely unusual type of Jump Cut since the film fades to black only to fade to the exact same moment.
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Lucille, the kindhearted prostitute and stripper who lives below Julie. A neighbor petitions to have her evicted for being a "whore," but Julie refuses to sign it, leading to her and Lucille becoming friends.
- Leitmotif: The piece (supposedly) composed by Julie's husband keeps appearing at different times. Depending on the situation, the music is played in different variations.
- Letting the Air Out of the Band: Julie collects her husband's (?) last manuscript. The music that he (?) composed plays on the soundtrack. When Julie takes that manuscript and throws it into a trash compactor, the music distorts, slows down, and stops.
- Mundane Made Awesome: Julie performs a lot of simple actions with bombastic music in the background.
- Nice Guy: Julie is a female example. When she lets go of her angst, she helps a lot of people on her way, even providing her husbands mistress and her unborn baby with Patrices old home.
- Offscreen Crash: Though we do see the car smashed immediately after.
- Ominous Latin Chanting: Except that its Greek.
- Outliving One's Offspring
- Playing Cyrano: Though its not outright stated, its implied that Julie could be the writer of her husbands music.
- Right Now Montage: The film's ending is a montage of most of the major characters at one moment, all of them affected in some way by Patrice's death or Julie's actions.
- Spiritual Successor: Of Kieslowski's previous film No End. They share the premise of a widow dealing with her husband's death. To further emphasize the thematical connection between the films, Blue reuses No End's main theme on several occasions.
- Batman Gambit: Karols plan to take revenge against Dominique.
- Everything Is an Instrument: Comb and paper.
- Girl in a Box: This is how Karol travels to Poland.
- I Cannot Self-Terminate: Mikołaj.
- I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: Karol stares at the inside of a guns barrel.
- The Immodest Orgasm: Dominique.
- Lewd Lust, Chaste Sex: A failed attempt at sex is shown in all its glory to establish the desperation of the participants and of their relationship. Success much later on fades to white.
- The Loins Sleep Tonight: The reason why Dominique asks for a divorce is that "Tonight" was every day.
- Mad Love: Despite having her arrested and jailed, Dominique finds herself pining for Karol, who pines for her as well.
- Repetitive Name: Karol Karol.
- Spiritual Successor: To ''Decalogue Ten''. It shares its Black Comedy tonality and has a lot of other similarites, such as somewhat shady protagonists and quirky side characters. White also stars the same actors (Zbigniew Zamachowski and Jerzy Stuhr) as a pair of brothers that behave very similarly to their Decalogue counterparts.
- Why We Are Bummed Communism Fell: The overarching mood of the movie.
- Call-Back: Right at the end of the film there's a freeze frame on Valentine as she's emerging from the police rescue boat. The freeze frame catches her looking to the left of the screen against a red background, framed in the same manner as the advertisement that was all over Paris.
- Crazy Jealous Guy: Valentines boyfriend. Hes not that crazy to commit a crime, but is very jealous.
- The opening sequence is a sped-up montage showing all the cables and wires a phone call from Britain to France travels through. We later find out that Joseph has been tapping into his neighbors' phone lines and recording their calls, just for kicks.
- Auguste's girlfriend running a weather service and giving forecasts for trips across the English Channel. In the end, a storm sinks both a ferry and a pleasure craft.
- Intergenerational Friendship: Valentine forms a bond with Joseph, who is old enough to be her grandfather.
- The Ken Burns Effect: There's a zoom-in on the freeze frame of Valentine at the end, after she's survived the ferry sinking.
- Manchild: Valentines boyfriend.
- Maybe Ever After: The final shot of Valentine and Auguste next to each other, after they make it back to shore following the ferry sinking, implies that they will wind up with each other and that he is the man in Joseph's dream who will make Valentine happy.
- Meet Cute: For a given value of "cute". Valentine meets Joseph after she hits his dog with her car.
- Not So Different: Augustes life is very similar to Joseph—they both are judges, they both loved and lost when they were young, they both followed the love of their youth to England before losing them. They even both dropped a lawbook which fell open to a specific page that turned up on their judge's examination. Fortunately for the former, his meeting with Valentine at the end of the film means his life probably wont be the same as the judge (and maybe will turn out for the best).
- Platonic Life-Partners: Valentine and Joseph. The age gap might have something to do with it, although he says to her: Perhaps youre the woman I never met.
- Sliding Scale of Cynicism Versus Idealism: Valentines idealism vs Josephs cynicism. He ends up moving across the scale at the end, though.
- A Storm Is Coming: The storm that whips up in the end is both symbolic of the violent disturbance soon to affect the main characters, and the literal cause of that disturbance in that it sinks the ferry.