Three Colors: Red (Zagreb, Croatia; October 4th, 2020)

“And you will shed tears of scarlet.”

Quote from Cowboy Bebop: “The Real Folk Blues (Part I)”

More than half a year has passed since the earthquake and the great damage it has done to my home, and I have changed two abodes. One was in the western part of the city, near the river, and I cherish fond memories of that place. I enjoyed the long walks on the riverbank in late spring, feeling the abundance of life overflowing. The other, where I live now, not far from my home, is an old house recently renovated as an apartment. The furniture in the apartment is mostly white, a gleaming white I am not accustomed to at all.

Thus, the reference to Kieslowski’s Three Colors trilogy in the title of this piece alludes not only to the third part of the trilogy, the color red bears an important symbolic meaning for me, but to the color white as well (Three Colors: White). The symbolism of the color blue, also present in the title of one of the parts of the trilogy, linked to sadness and loss in the film, was already transformed by a quote at the beginning of this piece, and sadness was linked to the color scarlet. I was always fascinated by the multiplicity of meanings a certain color can have for a person, as the cinematographer Vittorio Storaro once said, they can be linked to our childhood memories.

In Karl-Joris Huysmans’ book Against Nature, a very important book for me, des Esseintes says that “he was convinced that the eyes of those among them who dream of the ideal and demand illusions are generally caressed by blue and its derivatives, mauve, lilac and pearl grey, provided always that these colors remain soft and do not overstep the bounds where they lose their personalities by being transformed into pure violets and frank greys. . . Those persons, on the contrary, who are energetic and incisive, the plethoric, red-blooded, strong males who fling themselves unthinkingly into the affair of the moment generally delight in the bold gleams of yellows and reds, the clashing cymbals of vermilions and chromes that blind and intoxicate them.”

Thus, red acquires an entirely new meaning, firstly associated with painful sorrow, now it acquires its more usual connotation of energetic passion and intoxication. I quoted Huysmans’ novel for another reason, its strong influence on myself. Working from home and having a strong inclination towards writing implies a great deal of solitude, and spending a great portion of time at home, requires a suitable environment.

The room in which I spent a great part of my day was newly renovated before the disaster, it was modest and spartan, decorated according to my taste. I enjoyed my bookshelf’s, sombre, melancholic textures of dark brown (along with a significant amount of books of great importance to me). Lately, I have a taste for heavy colors, and chose one of those for my new working table, but for the curtains I chose slightly more flamboyant colors. Dark brown was soothing for me, I rested my eyes on this heavy color bearing a hint of sombre mystery in it. In one word, I grew to love that room dearly, as well as the balcony where one could enjoy the summer nights, and spring mornings.

When I came here, to the apartment I am in now, I found myself almost blinded by the bleached, gleaming white of the closet, white walls, white door, the predominantly light colors. Although decorated tastefully enough, but having an almost hospital like feel to it, it probably can be soothing for eyes different than mine, I found it alien to myself. I was removed from my natural habitat by the sheer force of nature, and tossed into a radically new environment. There was only one thing to do, to make it mine.

As Huysmans writes: “What he wanted was colors which would appear stronger and clearer in artificial light. He did not particularly care if they looked crude or insipid in daylight, for he lived most of his life at night, holding that night afforded greater intimacy and isolation and that the mind was truly roused and stimulated only by awareness of the dark.” A few weeks had passed, and in a shop with local (Croatian) products, I found wonderful scarlet damask bed sheets, and enthralled, I immediately bought them for my bed. When I put them on the bed, the room instantly acquired a distinct and personal touch, abundant in warmth and life, it became my own. In one word, the color red acquired a new meaning for me – it symbolized the feeling of home.

Hrvoje Galić

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