Black humour from Eastern Europe

Issue 

Black humour from Eastern Europe

Three Colours White
A film by Krysztof Kieslowski
Showing at Sydney's Academy Twin
Reviewed by Peter Boyle

If you like your comedy Eastern European black, this is a film for you. The second of Kieslowski's Three Colours trilogy inspired by the ideals of the French Revolution, White is said to be about equality. The two other films are Blue (for freedom) and Red (for fraternity).

Working out just how White is about equality takes a bit of enjoyable concentration. If you enjoyed the cynical and sometimes self-pitying black humour that flourished under Eastern European Stalinism despite the best efforts of its censors, in White, you can see that same caustic humour turned against the new Eastern European regimes.

The story opens in Paris where we see Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski), a Polish hairdresser, being dumped by Dominique, his French wife (Julie Delpy), because he is impotent. Left destitute and without a passport, Karol lives in the Paris subway playing sentimental Polish folk songs on his comb for a few coins.

He meets up with a fellow Pole who smuggles him back to Poland in an old trunk. Unfortunately the trunk is stolen by hoodlums as soon as the plane lands in Poland and Karol greets his homeland bruised and freezing on a rubbish tip.

Back in Poland, Karol single-mindedly builds a business empire on the back of a few shady deals (everything is for sale in the new Poland) but what he really wants is to get back his wife. He finally finds a way to do this but his revenge proves less than totally satisfying. Is this story an allegory for the "liberation" of Eastern Europe by capitalism? Judge for yourself.

Director Kieslowski, who has won numerous international film awards (for A Short Film About Killing, A Short Film About Love, The Decalogue and The Double Life of Veronique), says that he is not going to make any more films because he no longer has the patience.

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