The capstone to Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieślowski’s brilliant career, the Three Colors trilogy explores the principles of the French Revolution—liberty, equality, and fraternity—through a series of intricately layered human dramas, culminating in 1994’s Oscar-nominated Red. This gorgeously photographed meditation on chance, destiny, and the challenges of interpersonal communication follows a Swiss fashion model (Irène Jacob) and the subtle connections that form between her life and those of an emotionally alienated retired judge (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and a young law student in her neighborhood (Jean-Pierre Lorit). In the below excerpt from the latest installment of Observations on Film Art, a Criterion Channel program that focuses on the formal elements of cinema and how they are deployed by some of the world’s greatest auteurs, professor Jeff Smith examines the ways in which Kieślowski uses camera movement to suggest the fated entanglement of the film’s characters.
Did Europeans “civilize” the Americas? Actually, anthropologists tell us that “hunters and gatherers were relatively peaceful, compared to agriculturalists, and that modern societies were more warlike still. Thus violence increases with civilization.
[…] Textbooks cannot resist contrasting "primitive” Americans with modern Europeans.
[…] Europeans persuaded Natives to specialize in the fur and slave trades. Native Americans were better hunters and trappers than Europeans, and with the guns the Europeans sold them, they became better still. Other Native skills began to atrophy.
[…] because whites “demanded institutions reflective of their own with which to relate,” many Native groups strengthened their tribal governments… New confederations and nations developed.. The tribes also became more male- dominated, in imitation of Europeans.. [there was] an escalation of Indian warfare… [the slave trade helped] to deagriculturize Native Americans. To avoid being targets for capture, Indians abandoned their cornfields and their villages.
[…] "Europeans did not “civilize” or “settle” roaming Indians, but had the opposite impact.
[…] According to Benjamin Franklin, “All their government is by Counsel of the Sages. There is no Force; there are no Prisons, no officers to compel Obedience, or inflict Punishment.” Probably foremost, the lack of hierarchy in the Native socieites in the eastern United States attracted the admiration of European observers. Frontiersmen were taken with the extent to which Native Americans enjoyed freedom as individuals. Women were also accorded more status and power.. than in white societies of the time.
[…] "Indeed, Native American ideas may be partly responsible for our democratic institutions. We have seen how Native ideas of liberty, fraternity, and equality found their way to Europe to influence social philosophers such as Thomas More, Locke, Montaigne, Montesquieu, and Rousseau… Through 150 years of colonial contact, the Iroquois League stood before the colonies as an object lesson in how to govern a large domain democratically.
[…] John Mohawk has argued that American Indians are directly or indirectly responsible for the public-meeting tradition, free speech, democracy, and “all those things which got attached to the Bill of Rights.” Without the Native example, “do you really believe that all those ideas would have found birth among a people who had spent a millennium butchering other people because of intolerance of questions of religion?”
[…] Indian warfare absorbed 80 percent of the entire federal budget during George Washington’s administration and dogged his successors for a century as a major issue and expense… [in many cases] the settlers were Native American, the scalpers white.
[…] All the textbooks tell how Jefferson “doubled the size of the United States by buying Louisiana from France.” Not one points out that it was not France’s land to sell–it was Indian land… Indeed, France did not really sell Louisiana for $15,000,000. France merely sold its claim to the territory… Equally Eurocentric are the maps textbooks use to show the Lewis and Clark expedition. They make Native American invisible, implying that the United States bought vacant land from the French… [Textbooks imply that the Indians were naive about land ownership, but] the problem lay in whites’ not abiding by accepted concepts of land ownership.
[…] The most important cause of the War of 1812.. was land– Indian land… The United States fought five of the seven major land battles of the War of 1812 primarily against Native Americans… [a] result of the War of 1812 was the loss of part of our history. A century of learning [from Native Americans] was coming to a close… until 1815 the word Americans had generally been used to refer to Native Americans; after 1815 it meant European Americans… Carleton Beals has written that “our acquiescence in Indian dispossession has molded the American character.” … destroyed our national idealism. From 1815 on, instead of spreading democracy, we exported the ideology of white supremacy. Gradually we sought American hegemony over Mexico, the Philippines, much of the Caribbean basin, and, indirectly, over other nations… We also have to admit that Adolf Hitler displayed more knowledge of how we treated Native Americans than American high schoolers who rely on their textbooks. Hitler admired our concentration camps for Indians in the west “and often praised to his inner circle the efficiency of America’s extermination–by starvation and uneven combat” as the model for his extermination of Jews and Gypsies.
[…] Yet we “still stereotype Native Americans as roaming primitive hunting folk, unfortunate victims of progress.
Lies My Teacher Told Me:Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong
i’m so mad bc this book is shitty af but it contains one of my fave moments in finnish literature
“Greedily breathe in the air, Jussi,” Elias urged. “It carries the scent of European civilisation/sophistication. The mild aroma of liberty, equality and fraternity, and the rich perfume of the thousand-year history of this town.”
“Oh,” answered Jussi. “I think it smells like shit in here.”
“But surely,” said Combeferre, after quickly swallowing his mouthful of brandy in order that he not spit it out in astonishment, “surely, Enjolras, you do not endorse the massacres of ‘93? Atrocities committed in the name of ‘liberty, equality, and fraternity’ remain atrocities despite motive. One may deliver justice without delivering cruelty. A trial rooted in fanaticism is unfair. Is penalty of death ever righteous, when it is men and not God who judges so? Nicolas de Condorcet was right to oppose the Montagnards
Enjolras, whose red lips had been pursed in such a manner as to transform his young countenance into a haughty one, interrupted him.
“If it is Condorcet with whom you think yourself in common, if you believe the few deaths of tyrants and of despots are unjust when many more suffer at their decrees, men and women, as you are so concerned with them, alike, if you find fault with Robespierre and not Roland
“Pardon, I find plenty at fault with Roland, but it is a fool’s position to laud Robespierre and Saint-Just when —
“I should suspect you and I share little between us after all.”
Several tables away, through a haze of pipe smoke, Bahorel and de Courfeyrac abandoned their game of dominos to stare open-mouthed at what had become of their ‘meeting of friends’.
The left has won the French election once again, ah France, once more you submit to the authority of crypto-fascist German authority. Bending over for old Gerry just like the good old days eh? Seriously, from the medieval period until the days of Bonaparte, the French were a military power with influence spanning the world… What the absolute fuck happened?! Napoleon dies and your country becomes a weak pacifistic leftist shit hole. You let foreigners and terrorists have the run not just of the streets of once proud Paris, but of the government itself! The Left has made you even weaker, once more leading you down the path of destruction claiming to be in the name of liberty, equality, fraternity. France has surrendered again to tyrants and kissed its own chains! I’m told Macron even now plans to visit Berlin to receive his instructions from his masters. As he won the election he had them play the EU anthem! After becoming president of France he plays the anthem of the EU?! What more proof do you need?! In all our homelands, the US, Canada, Britain, France, Germany and so many others, the left wears the mask of liberty, equality, tolerance, unity, but they bring division, destruction, intolerance, madness, and corruption on a grand scale! Globalist socialists claiming to care about our freedoms while they take them away. Fascism is alive and well, masquerading as liberalism. Pray for France. They know not what they do.
On Friday night, you took an exceptional life - the love of my life, the mother of my son - but you will not have my hatred. I don’t know who you are and I don’t want to know, you are dead souls. If this God, for whom you kill blindly, made us in his image, every bullet [you put] in the body of my wife would have been a wound in his heart.
So, no, I will not grant you the gift of my hatred. You’re asking for it, but responding to hatred with anger is falling victim to the same ignorance that has made you what you are. You want me to be scared, to view my countrymen with mistrust, to sacrifice my liberty for my security. You lost.
I saw her this morning. Finally, after nights and days of waiting. She was just as beautiful as when she left on Friday night, just as beautiful as when I fell hopelessly in love over 12 years ago. Of course I am devastated by this pain, I give you this little victory, but the pain will be short-lived. I know that she will be with us every day and that we will find ourselves again in this paradise of free love to which you have no access.
We are just two, my son and me, but we are stronger than all the armies in the world. I don’t have any more time to give to you, I have to join Melvil who is waking up from his nap. He is barely 17-months-old. He will eat his snack as usual, and then we are going to play as usual, and for his whole life this little boy will threaten you by being happy and free. Because no, you will not have his hatred either.”
Antoine Leiris a man who lost his wife in the massacres in Paris wrote this on his Facebook page.
It sometimes happens that, even contrary to principles, even contrary to liberty, equality, and fraternity, even contrary to the universal vote, even contrary to the government, by all for all, from the depths of its anguish, of its discouragements and its destitutions, of its fevers, of its distresses, of its miasmas, of its ignorances, of its darkness, that great and despairing body, the rabble, protests against, and that the populace wages battle against, the people.
…The man of probity sacrifices himself, and out of his very love for this crowd, he combats it. But how excusable he feels it even while holding out against it! How he venerates it even while resisting it! This is one of those rare moments when, while doing that which it is one’s duty to do, one feels something which disconcerts one, and which would dissuade one from proceeding further; one persists, it is necessary, but conscience, though satisfied, is sad, and the accomplishment of duty is complicated with a pain at the heart.
June, 1848, let us hasten to say, was an exceptional fact, and almost impossible of classification, in the philosophy of history. All the words which we have just uttered, must be discarded, when it becomes a question of this extraordinary revolt, in which one feels the holy anxiety of toil claiming its rights. It was necessary to combat it, and this was a duty, for it attacked the republic. But what was June, 1848, at bottom? A revolt of the people against itself.
As we have said previously, it attacked in the name of the revolution–what? The revolution. It–that barricade, chance, hazard, disorder, terror, misunderstanding, the unknown– had facing it the Constituent Assembly, the sovereignty of the people, universal suffrage, the nation, the republic; and it was the Carmagnole bidding defiance to the Marseillaise.
The beating heart of French Canada is her churches and cathedrals, she was spared the bloodshed and anarchy that befell the French fatherland and kept the traditions of her ancestors rather than embracing the false ideals of ‘liberty, equality and fraternity’
Her soul is that of Charlemagne and Templars, not of Rousseau and the Jacobins.
Like one of the happiest and saddest moment at the same time. Him proudly waving the flag while shouting how golden we are, like a big ”Hey look at us, we’re still standing, still dancing, you won’t deprive us of our freedom”. The emotion of that night, him and us all together determined to sing and to dance and to do as much noise as we could. Determined to stand. We might be scared but we keep on standing, and he is standing with us.
“Music is not a pivilege. Music is a right. It is liberty. Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.”
Women at Federalist and Democratic-Republican Events
Despite the quintessentially male, martial character of the Cincinnati, the organization welcomed women to its gatherings. Printed speeches from 1786 to 1815 reveal numerous occasions in which Federalist orators directly addressed women sitting in the audience. In his 1790 speech to the Delaware Cincinnati, for example, James Tilton noted, “I shall be pardoned in deviating so far from ordinary form, as to address this head of my discourse to my fair audience.” In another venue, during one of his “Lectures on the Study of the Law in the United States,” James Wilson observed: “Methinks I hear one of the female part of my audience exclaim - What is all this to us? We have heard much of societies, of states, of government, of laws, and of a law education. Is every thing made for your sex? Why should not we have a share? Is our sex less honest, or less virtuous, or less wise than yours?” He then proceeded to elucidate the women’s contributions.
Comments directed specifically toward women were significant for several reasons. First of all, they indicate that women were in attendance at a variety of political gatherings, especially, though not exclusively, at Independence Day celebrations. Members seem to have regarded the women’s presence as both useful and appropriate. Moreover, by speaking to women in the audience, Federalist orators transformed the females from passive bystanders into active participants in the day’s events. They acknowledged women to be thinking, sentient beings who had a stake in the polity. In effect, they affirmed women’s role as Republican Wives and mothers.
In many more speeches Federalist orators spoke about women even when they did not speak directly to them. They honored women’s contributions to the Revolutionary cause, exhorted them to support the country in its present crises, or celebrated women’s distinctive branch of patriotism. Many speakers used the Independence Day celebrations, for example, to remind audiences of women’s role in winning the Revolutionary War. “To the fair of our country,” observed Keating L. Simon in 1806, “are we as much indebted for that glorious achievement, as to the generous souls, who endured the toils of the camp, and withstood the shocks of battle. Warmed by the same honorable feelings, they maintained, throughout, the same devotion to the cause. Their patriotism became the more noble, as it was of a kind entirely suited to their sex.” Other Federalists commented on women’s continuing service to American society. In 1788, during the ratification of the federal Constitution, William Hull observed, “With gratitude and admiration, we here likewise pay the tribute of applause to the fair daughters of America - for their unexampled exertions at this critical season; denying themselves the luxuries and delicacies of life and ornament, and practicing the duties of industry and oeconomy, they animated youth by the splendour of their example and inspired them with manly pride, to defend the beauties of innocence and the violated rights of their country.”
In contrast, the Democratic-Republicans seemed less supportive of women’s potential as political beings. They made very little room for women, either in their organizations or their rhetoric. From the beginning, lower- to middle-class white men began joining different organizations from the Federalists. They especially gravitated toward the Tammany Society, named after a mythological Indian chief. Founded in New York in the 1780s, the Tammany attracted former enlisted veterans, craftsmen, artisans, and skilled laborers. The Tammany and its affiliated organizations - the Mechanic, Cooper, and Hibernian societies - were Democratic-Republican in orientation. Though committed to liberty, equality, and fraternity, these organizations clearly understood “equality” to mean the equality of all white males.
Unlike the Federalists, Republican orators seldom spoke directly to women at their gatherings. On one such rare occasion, a Springfield, Massachusetts, Independence Day celebration in 1800, a Republican speaker addressed women as “female citizens.” In 1806 Republican Elias Glover of Ohio appealed to the “Columbian Fair.” Given the male-dominated nature of the political system, the paucity of appeals to women hardly seems surprising. But the contrast with the Federalists’ not infrequent allusions to the female sex makes the absence of Republican references significant. Unlike Federalists, Republicans may not have chosen to invite women to attend their meetings. Or perhaps Republican gatherings were less hospitable to women. Even if women were there, Republican speakers may have been less willing to acknowledge the women’s presence in their midst.
Beyond the quantitative difference, there was also a qualitative difference in the way Republicans depicted women when they mentioned them. Republicans tended to underscore the secondary, or auxiliary, nature of women’s political achievements. Hailing women’s “virtuous liberty,” for example, Elias Glover urged his female listeners to “accept the station nature intended for you, and double the knowledge and happiness of mankind.” Women’s place was subordinate to men. In 1804 Richard Dinsmore of Alexandria noted approvingly that female Patriots during the Revolution had, in his words, “emulated the decisive patriotism of their husbands and brothers.” Female patriotism was portrayed as derivative rather than primary. In a similar vein, the Reverend Solomon Aiken of New Hampshire praised what he called women’s “patriotic concurrence….Our heroines, in their place, were not a whit behind our foremost heroes.” The Reverend Joseph Pilmore’s comments, made in 1794 to the New York Tammany Society, seem to be typical of the Republicans. “See on this joyful Festival of our country’s Independence, a multitude of free men met to commemorate your valiant acts, while the fair daughters of our nation strew your graves with flowers.” While the Tammany Society was meeting to celebrate its collective male valor, women were putting flowers - either literally or metaphorically - on the graves of fallen heroes.
- Rosemarie Zagarri, Gender and the First Party System
“Prior to the rise of the separatist movement, kalayaan did not mean ‘freedom’ or 'independence.’ In translating into Tagalog the ideas of 'liberty, fraternity, and equality’ learned from the West, propagandists like Bonifacio, Jacinto, and perhaps Marcelo H. del Pilar built upon the word 'layaw’ or 'laya,’ which means 'satisfaction of one’s needs,’ 'pampering treatment by parents,’ or 'freedom from strict parental control’ … In 'kalayaan,’ revolutionists found an ideal term for independence that combined separation from a colonial ruler (i.e., a mother who showed cruelty instead of love) and the 'coming together’ of people in the Katipunan.” ~ from PASYON AND REVOLUTION (Ateneo de Manila University Press 1979) by Reynaldo Ileto