Three Colors: White

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 is soon 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 consisting of killing someone who wants to be dead but does not have enough courage to do it himself. 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. He returns to working as a hairdresser with his brother (Jerzy Stuhr).

Karol takes a job as a bodyguard in a seemingly innocent cash exchange office. Mikołaj meets Karol in a Warsaw Metro tunnel for the execution of the “suicide”, it turns out to be 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. 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 knew were 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.

With the money he 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. 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 image of the film shows Karol staring at Dominique through the window of her prison cell, her gesturing at him, and Karol crying.