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Just One Question for Magdalena Donea
Mar 04, 1998 :: Michael Sippey

Maggy Donea is probably best known as the creator of Water, which won her the Cool Site of the Year award in the personal site category. Her latest creation is Colors, subtitled "Bed Time Stories for Big Kids." With Colors, Maggy has once again pushed the boundaries of story-telling on the Web, skillfully integrating text, images and sound into an experience that's both alluring and disturbing. Maggy was kind enough to humor my one question...

MS: In the "thank you" portion of Colors, you thank Krzysztof Kieslowski for his film trilogy "Trois Couleurs." What does Colors owe to the films "Blue," "Red" and "White?"

MD: "What doesn't COLORS owe to these films?" would perhaps be an easier question to answer, although not quite half as much fun.

"Trois Couleurs," for the uninitiated, is a film trilogy by Polish-born, French director Krzysztof Kieslowski, each named for a different color of the French flag (and, as some have speculated, attempting to embody the concepts the French attach to these three colors, namely liberty, equality and fraternity). Each of the films is very different from the others and at first glance entirely unrelated; and each of them made such an incredible impact on me that for a long time after seeing them, I couldn't imagine creating anything again that wouldn't be inspired, in some way, by them.

They affected me deeply and on a very personal level. I came away from each of them to find myself in a strange mix of euphoria and intense personal reflection that didn't wear away for weeks on end. When it did, that reaction always made way for a kind of giddy period when the details of each film were still entirely fresh in my mind and I could see very clearly the technical mastery and the intensity of the imagination that produced them.

I'd been planning a collection of web-based fictional stories for a very long time. I wanted to produce the type of content that took chances and risked jostling the reader's sensibilities by its very nature, whether that was erotic, or violent, or simply unusual. I've always been attracted to pulp, to stories that are out of the norm, difficult to categorize and sometimes difficult to read, and those have always been the types of stories I've told myself, or written down, or imagined.

From a technical standpoint, I wanted to create something that pushed the limits of the medium a bit, that took full advantage of both the senses we have available to us out here - sight and sound. After I watched these films, I knew exactly what I wanted to produce, and how.

There are concepts in all three movies that come up again and again in my life and the types of stories I'm likely to write... chance, coincidence, love, sex, betrayal, loss, cruelty, revenge, these are themes that each of us is likely to relate to in a very personal way, that I'm always trying to address in a very frank and real manner. The choice of color names for the story titles is an incredibly powerful tool in setting the stage for addressing those themes - the color-as-title shapes the reader's expectation of the way each theme will be treated. To Kieslowski, the colors blue, white, and red might have meant "freedom," "equality," and "fraternity" - then again, they might have also meant "despair," "tranquility," and "rebirth" - and while he never articulates their intended meaning precisely, one is left with the feeling, in the end, that each color makes sense in the context of each story, that it somehow fits.

I was brought up by two artists, architects by trade - my parents made me aware of the uses of color, the meanings of shades, the intricacies of matching, or contrasts, or variations so much that at one point I became overly-sensitive to them. Even now, I am very much aware that I prefer to be surrounded by various shades of gray. So given my relationship with colors, my other obsession with music and musical sound, as well as my interest in the art of storytelling, particularly on the web, it would have been a miracle if "Trois Couleurs" hadn't inspired me in some way.

The fact that the trilogy was so exquisitely made only sealed my fate more.

On the surface, COLORS is inspired most by the film "Blue" - in it, the marriage between the story, its incredible music, and the actual color was most striking. The most intense moments in the film take place when the main character, Julie (played by Juliette Binoche) is thinking of a piece of music that her husband had written. In the moment of the recollection, the music takes over the story and the screen always fades to blue. In putting together COLORS, it was that technique which I tried to inject into each story the most, that pulling of the viewer into the experience by setting the stage (through the use of the predominant color) and the mood (through the use of the music) before and during the story. "Blue," like no other feature film I'd seen before it, showed me how well this could be done.

Had I only seen "Blue" and not the other two films, I might still have produced the same site that you see on the web now, as it stands at the end of its second month. COLORS is growing, however, evolving along a certain pre-defined path as well as in response to its audience (as anything in this medium is likely to do). And there is one aspect of it that you cannot see now but that was born out of an idea I got after watching the other two films (as well as from another source, a volume of short stories by Rebecca Brown entitled "The Terrible Girls," which is also noted in the site's credits) - that aspect being the direction the site will ultimately take.

... and that I can't tell you yet - you'll just have to watch!



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