Second of a trilogy of films dealing with contemporary French society shows a Polish immigrant who wants to get even with his ex-wife.
Release Year: 1994
Rating: 7.7/10 (22,293 voted)
Stars: Zbigniew Zamachowski, Julie Delpy, Janusz Gajos
Karol (Polish) marries Domininque (French) and moves to Paris. The marriage breaks down and Dominique divorces Karol, forcing him into the life of a metro beggar and eventually back to Poland. However, he never forgets Dominique and while building a new life for himself in Warsaw he begins to plot…
Writers: Krzysztof Kieslowski, Krzysztof Piesiewicz
Le notaire (The Lawyer)
L'elégant (The Elegant Man)
L'inspecteur (The Inspector)
La vieux payson (The Old Farmer)
Le propriétaire du bureau de change (Bureau de Change Proprietor)
L'interprète (The Interpreter)
Le juge (The Judge)
(as Philippe Morier Genoud)
L'homme de haute taille (The Tall Man)
L'employé de banque (The Bank Employee)
La caissière (The Cashier)
Release Date: 18 February 1994
Filming Locations: Paris, France
Did You Know?
Almost every shot in the movie contains at least one white object.
When our couple manage to make love, Dominique's moanings are not simultaneous with her lips.
[to the man who wanted help committing suicide]
That was a blank. The next one's real. Are you sure?
White as a wedding gown, as a dove…
Ostensibly Kieslowski chose white of the French flag to make a movie on
equality. Equality if it can be reached in marriage, makes it work.
Marriage is rocked when an equilibrium is not reached. A dove can be
caressed and be a symbol of peace and purity; a dove can defecate and
dirty as well
White in the movie is used as an epiphany of the joyous moments in
marriage. The doves are weaved in Kieslowski visually and aurally to
accentuate the marriage as a rite of passage in life. He brings in the
phrase "light at the end of the tunnel" towards the end of the film.
There is another marriage, that of Mikolaj in the subplot that also
survives in a strange way.
The film begins with divorce proceedings and ends with the wife
signalling the reinstatement of the wedding ring on her finger. The
film begins with husband recalling the wedding that has failed. The
doves flying overhead unload excreta on him. Towards the end of the
film, the husband again recalls the wedding as he sets off for the
Kieslowski's treatise on equality is based on marriage as a great
leveller with the doves flutter captured on the soundtrack appearing as
a frequent reminder of marital bonds. It even appears in the
underground metro, an unlikely place if you have a logical mind. You
have to throw away logic if you need to enjoy this film.
There are aspects of the film that are obviously unrealistic. Putting a
grown man in a suitcase and letting the suitcase go through airport
security is not feasible. Moreover, the director shows the heavy
suitcase perched precariously on a luggage cart. Impossible to believe
all these details.
But the deeper question is whether Kieslowski was using marriage as a
metaphor for politics? There is the mention of the Russian corpse with
the head crushed for sale, there is a mention of the neon sign that
sputters…The name Karol Karol seems reminiscent of Kafka.
Sex in this film is not to be taken at face value. Impotence of Karol
Karol at strategic points of the film is deceptive. He apparently does
more than hair care for women clients at his hair care parlor in Poland
(suggested, not shown). I have a great admiration for Polish cinema,
having gown up watching works of Wajda and Zanussi. I met Kieslowski in
1982 when he attended an international film festival in Bangalore,
India, promoting his film "Camera Buff," another film with Jerzy Stuhr,
who plays Jurek in "White". I took note of "Camera Buff" but I could
not imagine the director of "Camera Buff" would evolve into a
perfectionist a decade later. Stuhr has been metamorphosed from a live
wire in "Camera Buff" to an effeminate colleague of Karol Karol in
"White". "White" is a carefully made work with support of other top
Polish directors in the wings–Zanussi and Agniezka Holland.
Although the film is heavy in symbolism, it is also a parody. Karol
Karol comes to kill with a blank bullet and a real one. Did he plan
that out, when he did not know who he was going to shoot?
The performances are all brilliant–the good Polish, Hungarian, and
Czech filmmakers extract performances from their actors that could
humble Hollywood directors, because the stars are not the actors but
the directors. Great music. Great photography. And a very intelligent
This is a major film of the nineties–providing superb wholesome
entertainment and food for thought. The film deservedly won Kieslowski
the "best director" award at the Berlin Film festival in 1994. It is
sad for the world of cinema that Kieslowski is no longer with us.