Color and Kieslowski

Lisa Di Bartolomeo, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

The films of the Polish auteur Krzysztof Kieslowski often use color as a philosophical or thematic foundation (as in the acclaimed "Three Colors" trilogy), or as the dominant aesthetic idea, or to express a mood, emotion, or atmosphere. Even before "Blue," "White," and "Red" (1993-94), however, Kieslowski had established his expressive use of color (through both mise-en-scene and lighting) in the 1988 ten-film series, "Dekalog." Lit by different lighting cameramen, each film shows a slightly varied lighting style, yet the series nevertheless retains essential elements of Kieslowski's film style. His use of color in each film is significant; this paper will examine the narrative meaning of Kieslowski's color choices in the ten "Dekalog" films. For instance, in "Dekalog I," which is loosely based on the first Commandment ("Thou shalt not have other gods before me"), blue lighting repeatedly evokes loss and sadness, and perhaps also suggests the presence of the transcendent, the divine. Opposed to this color, both thematically and aesthetically, is Kieslowski's use of green lighting (in "Dekalog I" exclusively associated with the computer) to point out a spiritual void or philosophical illness. Such color-meaning associations are clear throughout the ten films, and a study of their significance is important for an understanding of the films as a whole.