Final Chapter: A Triumphant Splash Of 'Red.'

WITH RED, THE LAST AND most stunning installment in Krzysztof Kieslowski's "Three Colors" trilogy ("Blue" and "White" preceded it), the 53-year-old Polish director has announced his retirement. Even if he hadn't, this mysterious, fate-haunted film would still have the feeling of a summing up. Those who know this superb filmmaker's work ("The Double Life of Veronique," "The Decalogue") will recognize echoes and themes from all his movies in "Red." But no homework is required to appreciate the ravishing images of this fable on the theme of fraternity.

Kieslowski's heroine is a young student/model in Geneva, Valentine (Irene Jacob), whose accidental encounter with a reclusive ex-judge (Jean-Louis Trintignant) changes the course of both their lives. She's run over his dog in the street; tracking him down to tell him, she discovers a bitterly indifferent, isolated man who secretly eavesdrops on his neighbors. "Red" is a love story, but in a mystical, almost metaphysical sense. Valentine's emotional generosity frees the misanthrope from his isolation. But too many years, and too much experience, separate them they're not meant to be I overs.

Their love for each other finds its form in her future relationship with a young Geneva law student, Auguste, whose life eerily parallels the judge's, a man Valentine will not meet until the film's final twist of destiny. The "story" of "Red" is, in realist terms, farfetched and schematic - sort of a high-toned version of a Claude Lelouch movie about predestined love. Its ideas, reduced to their kernels, flirt with banality. The real mystery of "Red" is how Kieslowski, through the magic of his exquisite eye and the conviction of his feelings, transforms such dicey material into an exhilarating experience. Is it profound or is it facile? When a movie gives you goose bumps, it may not matter.