The third of Kieslowski's trilogy, Red is his last movie as a director and probably his best; the brilliant parting shot from an auteur who I would rank among the likes of Bergman and Andrei Tarkovsky. The movie reminded me of the initial part of Tarkovsky's The Sacrifice where the postman talks about Nietzsche's concept of eternal return.
The movie depicts the story of a young model (Valentine) and an old man (Joseph) who was a judge and whose main activity is eavesdropping on his neighbours' telephone conversations. The lives of the two intersect due to Joseph's dog being run over by Valentine. These two are completely different individuals - one, a young woman who has strong convictions about the ideas of good and evil and the other, an old man approaching his death who sees good and evil as it is, without judging them (though he was a judge).
The life of the old man has strong parallels to that of his neighbour, a young judge (Auguste). At times, the viewer might feel the depiction of Auguste's life to be Joseph's dream or recollection. Auguste is in love with Karin who leaves him for another man, who is hinted to be a sailor. And it is a sailor that Joseph declared to be not guilty in his first judgement 35 years ago. Joseph regrets the decision during one of his conversations with Valentine. Towards the end, Joseph tells Valentine that she was probably the woman he loved and never met. Valentine leaves for England to meet her boyfriend in a ferry in which Auguste is also travelling. Auguste is following Karin who is on a pleasure trip with her new lover in a yacht. The ferry and the yacht both meet with an accident and Valentine and Auguste meet, being among the few survivors of the accident.
The reasons why I think the movie points to eternal return are:
- Joseph sees in Auguste an almost exact replica of himself ( for most people, this is his/her son/daughter)
- The situations and coincidences that they face are similar, such as -
- Auguste passes the law exam when questions are asked from that part of book which accidentally flips over
- being deserted by the lover
- the lover dying in an accident
- abandoning the dog
However, Joseph plays God by asking Valentine to take the ferry so that Auguste may meet the woman destined for him, which he himself could not.
The movie left me in high spirits because, I felt I was being told
- Though situations and the people around you might be similar and incredibly tedious due to their repititive nature, it is for you to identify your will and impose it on your life
- The need to be courageous to question
Nietzsche's concept of eternal return and its unbearable nature
- The existence of the ability to play God in one's own life, before it is too late(for Joseph, it was late) and challenge fate
The movie is supposedly inspired from the poem 'Love at first sight' by Wislawa Szymborska whose translation is quoted below:
They're both convinced
that a sudden passion joined them.
Such certainty is more beautiful,
but uncertainty is more beautiful still.
Since they'd never met before, they're sure
that there'd been nothing between them.
But what's the word from the streets, staircases, hallways--
perhaps they've passed by each other a million times?
I want to ask them
if they don't remember--
a moment face to face
in some revolving door?
perhaps a "sorry" muttered in a crowd?
a curt "wrong number"caught in the receiver?--
but I know the answer.
No, they don't remember.
They'd be amazed to hear
that Chance has been toying with them
now for years.
Not quite ready yet
to become their Destiny,
it pushed them close, drove them apart,
it barred their path,
stifling a laugh,
and then leaped aside.
There were signs and signals,
even if they couldn't read them yet.
Perhaps three years ago
or just last Tuesday
a certain leaf fluttered
from one shoulder to another?
Something was dropped and then picked up.
Who knows, maybe the ball that vanished
into childhood's thicket?
There were doorknobs and doorbells
where one touch had covered another
Suitcases checked and standing side by side.
One night. perhaps, the same dream,
grown hazy by morning.
is only a sequel, after all,
and the book of events
is always open halfway through.