Three Colours: Red. An incisive look at the moral ambiguity of Surveillance

We sat transfixed watching the powerful “Three Colours: Red” again. It is one of the deepest stories ever put on the screen.

Released in 1994 as the third story, and arguably the most profound, it was widely lauded as the best in the Three Colours trilogy directed by the late Krzysztof Kieślowski

The main strand in the plot line is the discovery by a young model Valentine Dussaut (Irene Jacob) of illegal surveillance conducted on his neighbors by a retired Judge Joseph Kern (Jean-Louis Trinitgnant).

By wiretapping his neighbors’ private phone conversations, Joseph Kern carries out his surreptitious surveillance.

The erosion of the border between what is private and what is public promises drama, danger, and romance.

In one case, Kern spies on a married man’s nightly pornographic phone calls to a homosexual lover with its ramifications for the unsuspecting wife and a suspicious teen daughter.

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The young, idealist woman and the older, world weary man forge a relationship which goes from wariness and hostility to a deep affinity and understanding of one another.

Three Colours: Red was released at the dawn of the Internet and before the age of virtual communication. Cell Phones were a rarity. This is a story about human relationships on a very basic, deep and personal level.

In the current era of Pandemic, chaos and Trump it is a reminder there is another, better, more reflective world.

It is also a reminder that someone conducting electronic surveillance of their neighbors may end up paying a price including denunciation by all who find it out.

Liz and Lee Heidhues – 8.22.2020

This is the third in the series of four Posts on Surveillance in cinema.

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