Dramatic Structure

This is the last film in a color trilogy (Blue, White, and Red) and the last film before Kieslowski's untimely death. It is as much narrative (novelistic) in tone and structure as it is dramatic, focusing as much, if not more, on aesthetics and intellectual concerns than it does on psychological states; more on ambiguity than on clarity (even though the main theme of fraternity is clear enough, the harmonics surrounding it suggest a much more complicated universe).

The film does seem to have a classical first act. We have a protagonist, Valentine. We are introduced to her ordinary life: her jealous boyfriend, her neighbor, her job. There is an inciting incident: running over the dog. And there is a question mark raised at the end of the first act: what will happen in the relationship between the Judge and Valentine? The first act ends when Valentine tells the Judge, "Stop breathing," and he answers, "Good idea." The second act begins with Valentine discovering the Judge's spying on his neighbors, and begins her rising action in which she eventually forces the Judge to review his behavior, change it, and embrace a new vision of life.

But what about Auguste, Valentine's neighbor? How does he fit into the scheme of things? Is he a mirror — a younger version of the Judge? Is his girlfriend's betrayal of him the Judge's girlfriend's betrayal? And what is the dramatic or narrative function of Valentine's jealous boyfriend? These questions are left open, as is the larger question that has been raised throughout and comes to a head at the very end of the film. Is Valentine's and Auguste's survival due to fate, chance, or magical intervention of the Judge? Here, the consequences of Valentine's actions do not inevitably lead to the ending unless there is fate, magic, or God's intervention due to Valentine's good deeds in reconciling the Judge to life.

Without the clear conflict we have seen in the other films discussed in this book, without the moment-to-moment psychology of the characters being available to us, and with ambiguous happenings and relationships, Red still succeeds in engaging us on a very high level. Why? I maintain it is due to Kieslowski's overriding vision of life that pervades every frame of this film, coupled with a consummate cinematic artistry. Let's see if we can discover some of his secrets.

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