Spoilers for the Three Colours trilogy.
This thread inspired me to rewatch the Three Colours trilogy again and I would agree with Felix's comments. I think it is very important to see their interrelation, not just see Red as simply the best film, even if the popular interpretation seems to have been boiled down to choosing the actress you like best! (For the record, I feel closer to, or identify more with, Juliette Binoche's character, but I wish I was
IrÃ¨ne Jacob's character! And in reality I'm probably as humiliated, calculating, unintentionally comic and clumsy with objects as Zbigniew Zamachowski's character from White!
I really liked Annette Insdorf's commentaries on the films (I actually haven't watched Double Life of Veronique yet - does Insdorf tell the story of being so impressed by the character Jacob played in Au Revoir, Les Enfants that he wanted her for Veronique that she talks about on Red's commentary, on that commentary track?), for the way she points out some of the interrelationships between the films (the seven puppies in Red linked to the seven survivors of the ferry; the pregnant dog in Red compared to the mice in Blue; Emmanuelle Riva in Blue contrasted with Jean-Louis Trintingant in Red) and the amazing cinematography and use of light and music in each to evoke quite different moods.
I think looked at individually, the films in the trilogy are great, but they really show their magnificence once they are all seen together. There are the obvious interrelations such as the ferry at the end of Red and the one scene that shows how we should see the film as less about the individual narrative of the specific films but about the emotions or subtext that the films are dealing with - the scene with the old person at the bottle bank and the various characters reactions (or non-reactions!) to them.
I think, beyond seeing and enjoying the individual narrative of each film, we should also take a more intellectual point of view of the lead actor and actress as sort of being the same couple: Julie and Olivier in Blue; Karol and Dominique in White; and the much more complicated final film with the relationship between Valentin, the unamed judge played by Trintingant and Auguste and the way the themes of liberty, equality and fraternity are used to show a sort of progression in relationships through how they relate to power and control.
Julie in Blue is trying to free herself from life, to live a selfish life, in response to death of her husband and child. Despite wanting to sell, destroy and leave everything behind she only manages to become further haunted by her dead loved ones. It is only through accepting their absence and mourning that she can actually
restart her life, which she can finally do with Olivier. But she is still at the beginning of the journey - she has only just awakened to being with another person, and how the 'constraint' of a relationship could actually be the freedom she has been searching for. She is still trapped behind a barrier at the end, unable to relate to the other characters shown in the beautiful panning sequence at the end of the film (that scene seems to have influenced the final pan in Donnie Darko!), but I think she at least wants to do so, which is a progression from shutting herself off.
Then in White Karol is not wanting freedom (that might best describe Dominique at the start of the film, divorcing Karol and kicking him out of her shop!). He gets what many would consider freedom, financial success, and throws it all away (as well as destroying his identity by faking his death) in his attempt to get 'equal' with Dominique. The ending would seem to suggest that Dominique forgives him and the wrongs they have done to each other have been cancelled out. They are now equal but, with Dominique in jail, they might not exactly be fraternal towards each other! Their relationship may now be one of mutual need - her with a criminal record and he officially dead - rather than one of respect and 'love'?
I like the scene where Blue and White intersect in the courtroom, and have wondered why there was no connection like that in Red. Of course there is the final ferry sequence, but that is more in the sense of 'wrapping up' the whole trilogy. Then I felt that there were no shared sequences with Blue and White earlier in Red because Red is a much more complex film. Rather than just having Julie and Karol cross in the courtroom, Red sets up Valentin and Auguste continually crossing paths and not meeting and beyond that the, unrecognised by either, 'double life' of the old judge and Auguste.
Fraternity, or empathy, brings Valentin into contact with the judge. Her kindness, and the danger of it being destroyed by the problems she is having with her drug addicted brother and overbearing boyfriend in England, is the story of the final film. She is given a cautionary tale in the judge who let revenge get the better of him and who has become a voyeur, and then gets a metaphorical chance to save the judge through being able to start a relationship with the about-to-be-embittered-through-betrayal Auguste in the beautiful end to the trilogy. (This theme is also in Blue where Julie encounters a neighbour Lucide. Lucide on first meeting Julie mentions how she had a blue mobile as a child, making her a replacement for Julie's dead daughter. This connection might prompt Julie to go to Lucide when she calls for her help at the strip club. Just by going and supporting Lucide, Julie is given a second chance of coming to terms with her dead family and beginning anew with Olivier by seeing the television show)
Valentin when she begins the film seems naive and innocent - happy! As the film progresses though she is shown to not be happy because she has cut herself off from dark truths in the world (as Julie tried to), but more because she is secure in herself. She is able to go about in the world without much difficulty (compared to the constant failure and humiliation Karol faced in White), and so has the self confidence to reject the advances of a photographer, or to confront the judge, and to be hurt by her boyfriend when he reacts jealously to her not being by the telephone when he calls but not see it as her failure but as a problem he has about letting her have a life apart from him.
I think that brings up the idea of being able to like yourself and your actions, or the feeling that you have a place in the world. If you have that (and compared to Julie, Karol, the judge and Auguste, she has) you are then better able to look outside yourself and your problems and help others, as shown by the bottle bank scene.
It seems that all of Valentin's problems are in the background - either easy to deal with such as the photographer, or off screen such as the telephone conversations with her boyfriend and her brother. The major problems she faces - running over the dog and meeting the judge (leading to making a friend and getting a puppy!) and the ferry disaster (leading to love?) have personally positive results for her and she is rewarded for the empathy she shows in her reactions to people, whether family, co-workers, the judge, people she knows casually (such as the cafe owner) and complete strangers (such as the cleaner interrupting their conversation in the theatre after the fashion show). I really like the way in Blue that Julie gets a piece of good luck when just after missing Olivier's car leaving a car park he is stopped by a red ambluance and she can catch up with him again - an example of Valentin's 'red' good luck bleeding into the other films. Julie does also perform an unselfish act of helping her husband's mistress in Blue which could be seen as a foreshadowing of Valentin's unselfishness in Red, and perhaps makes up for her missing the old woman at the bottle bank! By the way, does anyone else think that the old people at the bottle bank are meant to represent the main characters when they are old (like in the judge's dream)? For example Julie's and Valentin's old people are women, and Karol's is a man. This may add weight to an argument that treating others badly (as Karol does), or being too self absorbed and not recognising someone needs help (as with Julie) in the end is just hurting yourself.
In a sense the seventh survivor from the ferry, named but not seen, could be a stand-in for the judge. It seems to me that the judge has the darker role that Julie and Karol had in the first two films, but instead of being trapped behind glass his encounter, and fraternity with, Valentin has purged him of his listening equipment and broken the barriers between him and the outside world. The metaphorical barrier might have been broken by a neighbour angrily chucking a brick through his window(!), but that just shows that the outside world can be cruel as well as kind but it is our attitudes toward it, helped and reinvigorated by our relationships with others (plus being helped by what Annette Insdorf characterises as 'guardian angels' who helpfully appear throughout the trilogy - and these are films that exist in a universe of fate where deus ex machina(tions) are commonplace), that can help us face our problems and even our tragedies.
Sorry if the above is a bit muddled and unreadable. I hope it is of some interest anyway!