Krzysztof Kieslowski's "Three Colors" trilogy (Blue, White, and Red) was recently released on DVD, and I just watched White again, after having seen it in the theater in '94. It's the least discussed but for some reason my favorite of the trilogy--it's certainly lingered longest in my memory. The plot in a nutshell (spoilers): Karol Karol is a Polish hairdresser ditched by his beautiful French wife Dominique (Julie Delpy) because he can't "consummate the marriage." Dead broke and on the lam because she has falsely accused him of setting fire to her shop, he ships himself back to Poland in a suitcase. Communism has just fallen and he uses some lucky inside information to get rich in a real estate deal. Still desperately in love with Dominique, he hatches a weird plot, making her co-executor of his estate, faking his own death, and framing her for murder. After the funeral he shows up in her hotel room and they make passionate love, but she goes to the slammer nevertheless; at the end of the movie he visits her in prison (presumably by buying a guard's silence) and she communicates a message, using Charades-like hand gestures, from a barred window high above him: "When I get out, I will not run away; I will (re)marry you." In the last shot of the movie, Karol lowers his binoculars and we see tears of happiness streaming from his eyes.
The commentary track clarifies the confusing, albeit moving, ending. When I first saw it I just assumed Karol was wealthy and influential enough to officially resurrect himself and have the charges against Dominique dismissed, once she'd sworn to be faithful to him. She cried at his "funeral" so he knows she still loves him, even though the renewal of her vows is coerced. The audio commentator (a Kieslowksi expert) says that deleted scenes make it clear that Karol tried and failed to get the charges dropped and was still "dead" when that last scene takes place. A Spanish critic opined that Dominique's hand gestures were only Karol's fantasy, and the movie ends with him just as frustratingly removed from his wife as he was at the beginning. Yet the DVD commentator notes that in an earlier (non-deleted) scene we hear that "the lawyer is making progress" (toward Dominique's acquittal) and in the movie Red, you see Karol and Dominique together among the ferry survivors, so there's a belated happy ending.
Feminist film critics have condemned Kieslowski (and this movie in particular) for misogyny, and it's true Dominique is one-dimensional--she serves mainly as Karol's tormentor and object of longing. The plot revolves around him, and he's enormously sympathetic. Dominique is a memorable harpy in the film's first reel--when Karol fails to satisy her, she files for divorce, cuts off his bank cards, and accuses him of arson. In view of this terror campaign, Karol's use of the Polish prison system to break her will seems like a perfectly reasonable countermeasure. But, then, once he gets his mojo back she becomes genuinely affectionate. In truth, they're both strong and determined people, even though he's the better drawn character; the movie's more about him conquering his co-dependency than shackling her. And his bounce back in the middle of the film from utter humiliation truly exhilarates.
thats at the top of my to-get list. $30 for the trilogy at amazon.