The alchemical origin of “Three Colors: Red”

Krzysztof Kieślowski, Jean Louis Trintignant, Irene Jacob on the set.
This Miramax picture is from imdb.

Krzysztof Zanussi during a public scriptwriting master class lecture told a story to illustrate the need for a filmmaker to study reality and to transmute the findings.

After the collapse of Communism a former secret agent approached Zanussi seeking help in finding a job. The agent thought of Zanussi because the director for years was his professional assignment. The agent spied on the filmmaker, listening to his phone conversations and reading his correspondence. In the agent’s mind a relationship was formed.

Zanussi offered him a few days a week yard work (nice touch, isn’t it?) That was refused. The director (realizing the narrative potential of the agent’s story or just seeking others who could help the man) called Andrzej Wajda, who wasn’t at that time in Warsaw.

So Zanussi called Krzysztof Kieślowski, who met the agent and spoke with him for a long time. That’s how the telephone spying on his neighbors judge in “Red” was born.

This reminds me of what Bill Viola said about his method of work. He used the expression “an almost alchemical process” in which he takes “an impulse which could be almost anything” (if I remember it well) and then with his craft turns it into “gold.”

Granted, Zanussi’s and Kieslowski’s films are anecdote based while Viola’s work is closer to painting but the rule remains the same: take in, extract the essence, stamp with your own, rearrange, return out.

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