Three Colours: White

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Three Colours: White
White Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byKrzysztof Kieślowski
Produced byMarin Karmitz
Written by
Music byZbigniew Preisner
CinematographyEdward Kłosiński
Edited byUrszula Lesiak
Distributed by
  • MK2 Distribution (France)
  • Rialto Film (Switzerland)
Release date
  • 26 January 1994 (1994-01-26) (France)
  • 4 February 1994 (1994-02-04) (Switzerland)
  • 25 February 1994 (1994-02-25) (Warsaw)
Running time
87 minutes
  • France
  • Poland
  • Switzerland
Box office$1.4 million

Three Colours: White (French: Trois couleurs: Blanc, Polish: Trzy kolory. Biały) is a 1994 French-Polish drama film co-written, produced, and directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski.[3][4] White is the second in the Three Colours trilogy, themed on the French Revolutionary ideals, following Blue and preceding Red. The film was selected as the Polish entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 67th Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nominee.[5]

White is about equality, with the film depicting Karol Karol, a shy man who, after being left by his wife in humiliating circumstances in Paris, loses his money, his residency, and his friends. As a deeply ashamed beggar in Paris, Karol begins his effort to restore equality to his life through revenge.


After opening with a brief, seemingly irrelevant scene of a suitcase on an airport carousel, the story quickly focuses on a Paris divorce court where Karol Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski) is pleading with the judge — the same legal proceedings that Juliette Binoche's character briefly stumbled upon in Blue. The immigrant Karol, despite his difficulty in understanding French, is made to understand that his wife Dominique (Julie Delpy) does not love him. The grounds for divorce are humiliating: Karol was unable to consummate the marriage. Along with his wife, he loses his means of support (a beauty salon they jointly owned), his legal residency in France, and the rest of his cash in a series of mishaps, and soon becomes a beggar. He only retains a two franc coin.

In a Paris Métro station, performing songs for spare change, Karol meets and is befriended by another Pole, Mikołaj (Janusz Gajos). While Karol has lost his wife and his property, Mikołaj is married and successful; he offers Karol a job - he would have to kill someone who wants to die but does not have enough courage to do it himself - but Karol rejects the job. Then from the street outside Dominique's window he sees the shadow of a man in her room next to her and calls her from a telephone booth at the station, only to learn that she's having sex with someone. Karol breaks down with utmost grief. Through a hazardous scheme, Mikołaj helps him return to Poland hidden in the suitcase shown at the beginning of the film, which is later stolen by employees at the airport. After discovering how poor he is, the dishonest airport employees beat him up and leave him. He returns to working as a hairdresser with his brother (Jerzy Stuhr).

Karol takes on a job as a bodyguard in a seemingly innocent cash exchange office. Using his position as a deceptively foolish bodyguard, Karol spies on his bosses and discovers their scheme to purchase different pieces of land that they know are going to be targeted by big companies for development and resell for large profits. Karol beats them to it, and then tells his ex-bosses that if they kill him all his estate shall go to the church, and they are therefore forced to purchase all the land from him. Then he meets Mikołaj for the job he offered to him previously. Mikołaj meets Karol in a Warsaw Metro tunnel for the execution of the "suicide", it turns out that Mikołaj is the intended victim and asks Karol to kill him. Karol shoots a blank into Mikołaj's chest and asks him if he really wants to go through with it as the next bullet is real. Mikołaj refuses and is able to feel alive again. But he pays Karol the offered money saying that he earned it.

With the money he has gained from this scheme and with the payment from Mikołaj, the two go into business (of a vaguely defined but possibly illegal nature) together. Karol becomes ruthlessly ambitious, focusing his energies on money-making schemes while learning French and brooding over his wife's abandonment. One night, he wakes up from sleep - he had been dreaming about Dominique - then he calls her, but she hangs up. Later, he uses his new financial influence in a world where, as several characters observe, "you can buy anything" to execute a complex scheme to first win back Dominique, and then destroy her life by faking his own death after which she is imprisoned for his 'murder'. The final scene in the film shows Karol staring at Dominique through the window of her prison cell, her gesturing to him that she wants to remarry him, and Karol starting to cry.[6][7]



The final scene of Dominique standing behind bars of her prison cell was shot months after the rest of the film, and was intended to soften Dominique's image; Kieślowski has said that he was dissatisfied with the ending shot previously and wanted her to seem less of a monster.[8]


The film has been interpreted as an anti-comedy by Roger Ebert, in parallel with Blue being an anti-tragedy and Red being an anti-romance.[9]


Three Colours: White was met with critical acclaim; it holds an 87% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 7.4/10, based on 46 reviews. The consensus reads: "Taking a lighter tone than the other films of the Three Colors trilogy, White is a witty, bittersweet comedy with heavier themes on its mind than one might at first realize."[10]

Year-end lists[edit]


Awards and recognition[edit]

Kieślowski won the Silver Bear for Best Director at the 44th Berlin International Film Festival in 1994.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Nesselson, Lisa (27 January 1994). "Three Colors: White". Variety. Retrieved 15 May 2020.
  2. ^ "THREE COLOURS WHITE (TROIS COULEURS BLANC) (1994)". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved 15 May 2020.
  3. ^ MacCabe, Colin. "Three Colors: A Hymn to European Cinema". Criterion. Retrieved 13 March 2012.
  4. ^ Ankeny, Jason. "White (1994)". Allmovie. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved December 9, 2012.
  5. ^ Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
  6. ^ Krzysztof Kieślowski, Three Colors: White; Trois couleurs: Blanc (1993).
  7. ^ What exactly did Dominique say to Karol at the end of “Three Colors White”?
  8. ^ "A Conversation with Julie Delpy on Kieslowski", special feature on White (Miramax DVD, Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Region 1 release, 2003).
  9. ^ Three Colors Trilogy: Blue, White, Red (1993-1994), by Roger Ebert, March 9, 2003
  10. ^ Overview and synopsis on Rotten Tomatoes; Film review and synopsis on Rotten Tomatoes
  11. ^ Anthony, Todd (January 5, 1995). "Hits & Disses". Miami New Times.
  12. ^ Howe, Desson (December 30, 1994), "The Envelope Please: Reel Winners and Losers of 1994", The Washington Post, retrieved July 19, 2020
  13. ^ Simon, Jeff (January 1, 1995). "Movies: Once More, with Feeling". The Buffalo News. Retrieved July 19, 2020.
  14. ^ "Berlinale: 1994 Prize Winners". Retrieved 2011-12-30.

External links[edit]