“…wealth shields from immediate judgment, takes you out of the subway crowd to enclose you in a chromium-plated automobile, isolates you in huge protected lawns, Pullmans, first-class cabins. Wealth, cher ami, is not quite acquittal, but reprieve, and that’s always worth taking.”


Many moons ago, I read Albert Camus’ novel, THE FALL. A few moons later, I watched Kryzsztof Kieslowski’s film, “Red“, which was from his “Three Colors” triology. I immediately thought (& surely I’m not alone) that Kieslowski modeled one of his main characters on Camus’ judge:

“But equally real to me was the world of books, the world of all sorts of adventures. It’s not true that it was only a world of Camus and Dostoevsky. They were part of it, but it was also the world of cowboys and Indians, Tom Sawyer and all those heroes. It was bad literature as well as good, and I read both with equal interest.” (Kieslowski 1993, 5)

Randomly, I located a used copy of “Red” recently and will spend the day re-visiting it, after many years. It’s one of my favorite films, though I haven’t seen it in such a terribly long time. Similarly, I haven’t taken a peek at the pages of THE FALL for at least a decade. I’m getting old?

I ask you, fair people, what better way to spend this simple cold Brooklyn day than delving into the thick, rich complexities of two minds that took on the big guns of human behavior and turned them into stories?

“Red is very complex in its construction. I don’t know whether we’ll manage to get my idea across on the screen. [. . .] I’ve got everything I need to put across what I want to say, which is really quite complicated. Therefore, if the idea I’ve got in mind doesn’t come across, it meant that either film is too primitive a medium to support such a construction or that all of us put together haven’t got enough talent for it.” – Krzysztof Kieslowski, June 1993 (1)

And from the judge, Jean-Baptiste Clamence, in Camus’ THE FALL:

“Today we are always ready to judge as we are to fornicate.” [77]

“People hasten to judge in order not to be judged themselves.” [80-81]

“My profession satisfied most happily that vocation for summits. It cleansed me of all bitterness toward my neighbor, whom I always obligated without ever owing him anything. It set me above the judge whom I judged in turn, above the defendant whom I forced to gratitude. Just weigh this, cher monsieur, I lived with impunity. I was concerned in no judgment; I was not on the floor of the courtroom, but somewhere in the flies like those gods that are brought down by machinery from time to time to transfigure the action and give it its meaning. After all, living aloft is still the only way of being seen and hailed by the largest number.” [25]

“In short, you see, the essential is to cease being free and to obey, in repentance, a greater rogue than oneself. When we are all guilty, that will be democracy. Without countering, cher ami, that we must take revenge for having to die alone. Death is solitary, whereas slavery is collective.” [136]


Imagination in its fallen mode tends to construct explanations. It is unwilling to live without a comprehensive vision of an underlying reality in terms of which to understand things that an innocent imagination finds awesome and prefers to leave in shadow. It does not so much celebrate awesome facts as it first projects and then discovers meanings it takes to be more fundamental. It fails to notice its own activity in constructing the synthesis with which it is so impressed and so tends to become frozen in its new perspective. Though it often recommends itself as consciousness raising, it simply replaces a naive dogmatism with another dogmatism that is more subtle and more dangerous. [William James O’Brien, Stories to the Dark: Explorations in Religious Imagination 24, 48 (New York: Paulist Press, 1977)]

9 Responses to ““…wealth shields from immediate judgment, takes you out of the subway crowd to enclose you in a chromium-plated automobile, isolates you in huge protected lawns, Pullmans, first-class cabins. Wealth, cher ami, is not quite acquittal, but reprieve, and that’s always worth taking.””

  1. Jim K Says:
    January 27th, 2007 at 7:48 pm eIntense James quote: so much in such a little package.
    Most of what we see in popular opinion these days is
    arguments that stain their own premises to attain the
    predetermined goal. BS applied to the self. A bit scary.
    I like the connection to imagination, though.
    A reminder that not all imagination is the growth kind.
    The “Fallen form of imagination” may be the most common.
  2. Jim K Says:
    January 27th, 2007 at 7:49 pm eOops….I was talkiing about the William James O’Brien quote.
  3. Tim Caldwell Says:
    January 28th, 2007 at 5:44 pm eAmy,

    I recently discovered your writings. One very bright spot during a dark time.

    I look forward to reading more of your work.



  4. Sam Rasnake Says:
    January 29th, 2007 at 2:34 pm eKieslowski is one of my favoirite directors. Red is such a wonderful film. That is an interesting connection you’re making Amy.
  5. Amy King Says:
    January 30th, 2007 at 1:18 am eThank you: Jim, Tim, and Sam!

    I really wanted to type your names out in a row!

  6. Tim Caldwell Says:
    January 30th, 2007 at 5:03 am eAmy,

    I popped in to read some more of your entries, and saw your comment with those three single syllable names lined up, and i could hear the start of a Dr. Seuss story…

    You’ve got me interested in checking out “Red.”


  7. Amy King Says:
    January 30th, 2007 at 11:45 pm eHa! Another guy emailed that he was going to post about this entry, but he didn’t — woulda been good though: his name is Dan. Thanks, Jim, Tim, Sam, and Dan! Can’t plan that~

    Reading The Fall along with seeing Red would be the height — but is time-consuming. So see Red, at least! And his other work like The Decalogue, which is even more time consuming, but addictively-so. Enjoy!

  8. Sam Rasnake Says:
    February 1st, 2007 at 12:25 pm eDon’t forget The Double Life of Véronique, Amy. Major, major. Although… Decalogue is my favorite.
  9. Shitebot » Blog Archive » Overflowing Toilets From Above Says:
    February 10th, 2007 at 12:15 pm e[…] Not to be too much of a whiner, but I would have preferred to sleep in a little this morning. On the bright side, I recently started Netflix and this week I have watched the first two films of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s “Three Colors” trilogy. After I finish the laundry, I’ll probably put on some coffee and watch the final installment, “Red.” I have to admit that these films never made it on my radar. I know Kieslowski from “The Decalogue.” He’s a brilliant filmmaker. I have to credit Amy King, a local poet, for directing me to these films. She wrote recently about “Red” in her blog. Check out her writing. […]

Fiction Film

AMY KING View All →

Amy King is the recipient of the 2015 Winner of the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) Award. Her latest collection, The Missing Museum, is a winner of the 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize. She co-edited with Heidi Lynn Staples the anthology Big Energy Poets of the Anthropocene: When Ecopoets Think Climate Change. She also co-edits the anthology series, Bettering American Poetry, and is a professor of creative writing at SUNY Nassau Community College.

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