ideals. We decided to see how these ideals
are realized practically and what they mean today.
Q: How did you conceive the films in relation to each other?
KK: We looked very closely at the three ideas, how they functioned in
everyday life, but from an individual's point of view. These ideas are
contradictory with human nature. When you deal with them practically,
you do not know how to live with them. Do people really want liberty,
equality, fraternity? Is it not some manner of speaking? We always take
the individual, personal point of view.
Q: So you turned to fiction -- yet you stick very close to real life.
KK: I think life is more intelligent than literature. And working so
long in documentaries became both a blessing and an obstacle in my work.
In a documentary, the script is just to point you in a certain
direction. One never knows how a story is going to unfold. And during
the shoot, the point is to get as much material as possible. It's in the
editing that a documentary takes place. Today, I think I still work in
the same way. What I shoot isn't really the story -- the footage just
contains the elements that will make up the story. While shooting,
details which weren't in the script are often thrown in. And during the
editing process a lot is cut out.
Q: If you took this way of thinking far enough, don't you think you
might end up using scripts merely as pretexts?
KK: No, not at all. Absolutely not. For me the script is key because
it's the means to communicating with the people I work with. It may be
the skeleton, but it is the indispensable foundation. Later, many things
can be changed: Certain ideas may be eliminated, the end may become the
beginning, but what's between the lines, all the ideas -- that stays the
Q: You call yourself an artisan, as opposed to an artist. Why?
KK: Real artists find answers. The knowledge of the artisan is within
the confines of his skills. For example, I know a lot about lenses,
about the editing room. I know what the different buttons on the camera
are for. I know more or less how to use a microphone. I know all that,
but that's not real knowledge. Real knowledge is knowing how to live,
why we live... things like that.
Q: Did you shoot the films separately, with an interval between them?
KK: We started with "Blue" and shot from September to November
1992. On the last day, we started "White" because in the
courtroom scene, you see the characters from both films together. As it
is very difficult to shoot in a courtroom in Paris, since we had the
permit, we took advantage of it; we immediately shot about 30% of
"White" because the first part takes place in Paris. Then we
left for Poland to finish it. After ten days of rest, we went to Geneva
to start "Red" which was shot in Switzerland from March to May
Q: Do the names of the characters have a particular meaning?
KK: I tried to think of names which would be both easy for the audience
to remember and reflective of the charactersí personalities. In real
life, there are names that surprise us because they don't seem to suit
the person at all.
Q: For "The Double Life Of Veronique" -- did you have
Veronique from the Gospel in mind?
KK: Later on I did, but not when I chose the name, and although it had
been unconscious, it seemed like a good association to have made. For
"Red," I asked Irene Jacob what her favorite name was as a
little girl. At the time, it was "Valentine." So, I named her
character Valentine. For "White," I named the hero Karol
(Charlie in Polish) as a tribute to Chaplin. This little man, who is
both naive and shrewd, has a "chaplinesque" side to him.
Q: "The Decalogue" was full of chance meetings -- some of
them failures and some successful. And in "Three Colors", from
one film to another, people seem to run into each other.
KK: I like chance meetings - life is full of them. Everyday, without
realizing it, I pass people whom I should know. At this moment, in this
cafe, we're sitting next to strangers. Everyone will get up, leave, and
go on their own way. And they'll never meet again. And if they do, they
won't realize that it's not for the first time. In the trilogy, these
encounters have less importance than in "A Short Film About
Killing" in which the fact that the future killer and the lawyer
fail to meet each other is key. In the trilogy, they're included mainly
for the pleasure of some cinephiles who like to find points of reference
from one film to another. It's like a game for them.
Q: Each film has a scene with an elderly person trying to put the
bottle in the trash can. What does this mean?
KK: I merely thought that old age awaits all of us and that one day we
won't have enough strength left to put a bottle in a container. In
"Blue," to avoid having this scene seem moralistic, I
over-exposed the image. I figured that this way Julie doesn't see the
woman, and doesn't realize what lies ahead for herself. She's too young.
She doesn't know that one day she's going to need someone's help. In
"White" Karol smiles because he realizes this is the one
person worse off than he is. In "Red" we see something about
Q: Valentine knows the price of fraternity and Julie will learn to
love again. The same can be said for Karol and Dominique. Even when
you're talking about liberty and fraternity, love is the final word.
KK: To tell you the truth, in my work, love is always in opposition to
the elements. It creates dilemmas. It brings in suffering. We can't live
with it, and we can't live without it. You'll rarely find a happy ending
in my work.
Q: Yet the screenplay for "Red" seems to say that you
believe in fraternity. And the end of "Blue" is optimistic
since Julie is able to cry.
KK: You think so? For me optimism is two lovers walking into the sunset
arm in arm. Or maybe into the sunrise -- whatever appeals to you. But if
you find "Blue" optimistic then why not? Paradoxically, I
think the real happy ending is in "White" which is,
nevertheless, a black comedy.
Q: A man who goes to visit his wife in prison. You call that a happy
KK: But they love each other! Would you rather have the story finish
with him in Warsaw and her in Paris - with both of them free but not in
Q: The theme of equality is not, at first glance, very obvious in
KK: It can be found in different areas: between husband and wife, at the
level of ambitions and in the realm of finance. "White" is
more about inequality than equality. In Poland we say "Everyone
wants to be more equal than everyone else." It's practically a
proverb. And it shows that equality is impossible: it's contradictory to
human nature. Hence, the failure of Communism. But it's a pretty word
and every effort must be made to help bring equality about... keeping in
mind that we won't achieve it -- fortunately. Because genuine equality
leads to set-ups like concentration camps.
Q: You've lived in France for a year now. Has the experience modified
your notion of liberty -- hence the tenor of "Blue?"
KK: No, because this film, like the other two, has nothing to do with
politics. I'm talking about interior liberty. If I had wanted to talk
about exterior liberty -- liberty of movement -- I would have chosen
Poland. Since things obviously haven't changed there. Let's take some
stupid examples. With your passport, you can go to America. I can't.
With a French salary you can buy a plane ticket to Poland, but this
would be impossible vice-versa. But interior liberty is universal.
Q: "Blue" seems like a continuation of "The Double
Life of Veronique," which itself picks up on an element from
"Decalogue 9" (the cardiac singer). We could go on and on...
Each film seems to give you a rough outline for another film.
KK: Of course, because I'm always shooting the same film! There's
nothing original in that though. All filmmakers do the same, and authors
are always writing the same book. I'm not talking about
"professionals," I mean authors. Careful, I said authors, not
Q: Each color is shot in a different country. Was this out of duty to
the European film industry?
KK: The idea of a European film industry is completely artificial. There
are good and bad films: that's it. Take "Red" -- we filmed in
Switzerland for economic reasons -- Switzerland is co-producing. But
it's not only that. We started thinking... Where would a story like
"Red" take place? We thought of England, then Italy. Then we
decided that Switzerland was perfect, mainly because it's a country that
wants to stay a bit off-center. The proof is the referendum concerning
its connection to Europe. Switzerland leans towards isolation. It's an
island in the middle of Europe. And "Red" is a story of
Q: Is it difficult to shoot in France without speaking the language?
KK: Of course, but I have no choice. Here I get financing. In other
places, I don't. At the same time, it's more interesting than working
somewhere I know too well. It enriches my perspective. I'm discovering a
world that's so different, a language that's so complicated and rich!
This is shown when I suggest -- in Polish of course -- a slight change
in the dialogue. Everyone comes back at me, in France, with suggestions
for twenty ways to change it.
Q: You've created a European symphony during your three shoots...
KK: As you may have gathered, we speak French, English, Polish, and
German. We've created an atmosphere in which everyone is comfortable. I
have no problem being with people of different nationalities.
Q: Do you feel European?
KK: No. I feel Polish. More specifically, I feel like I'm from the tiny
village in the Northeast of Poland where I have a house and where I love
to spend time. But I don't work there. I cut wood.