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Three Colors Blue: Through the Grief Darkly

23 April 2012 | Cinema Masterpieces | by David Zou

three colors blue

This is the fourth time I watch Krzysztof Kieslowski’s visually haunting,musically ravishing masterpiece Blue,the first part of his Three Colors Trilogy,also my favorite episode.I noticed more tiny details by listening to the inspirational Annette Insdorf(author of Francois Truffaut, Indelible Shadows: Film and Holocaust, and Double Lives, Second Chances: The Cinema of Krzysztof Kieslowski.)’s commentary track,and all these added up to a completely refreshing rediscovery of this film.Now let’s go through the film together and explore the amazing magic in it.

 

three colors blue circularity

The opening shot,we see the camera is placed behind a car wheel,this is the first time the concept “circularity” appears in the film,and this is one of the key elements to understand the film.The shape of circle would appear again and again throughout the film in other forms of a ball,a roll of paper,a cluster of beads,etc.This is a metaphor of Julie’s  grief of painful past occurs to her again and again to disturb her,remind her,no matter how hard she tries to forget them.

 

three colors blue car crash

Then there is the car crashing scene,introducing the first supporting role in this film,a boy called Antoine.Also this scene is the first what-ifs in the film,what if Julie’s husband picks up the hitchhiker? will they escape the disaster? If you know Kieslowski’ works well,you will know what a important role FATE plays in his films,and this is merely one of the examples.

 

three colors blue nurse glass

So Julie is trying to swallow pills to suicide due to her lost of husband and child accidentally,FATE saves her again,a nurse appears behind the window.Here comes another key element in Kieslowski’s flms,GLASS.In his films,glass has some kind of double-edge quality,it both connects the characters and meanwhile stops them being too close.You can see this kind of images later when a journalist visits Julie and Julie goes to see her mother.

 

three colors blue bumgee

A friend of Julie’s husband,Olivier,comes to visit Julie,puts a mini-TV on her bed,it is showing a bumgee jumping,the bumgee scene appears later again,on the TV screen of Julie’s mother,also the Criterion Collection uses this scene as the cover of the dvd.So what’s the significance of this particular scene? It may symbolize the resilience inside her,just like the sports itself,Julie’s inside world goes down,and then bounces back as the story develops.

 

three colors blue ghostly light

Julie comes home after her recovery,as we see her lying on a chair,all of a sudden,the music comes in a very powerful way,a strange blue light reflects on her face.It’s almost like a ghost,Julie’s reaction is first a shock,and then looks at something ghostly like,we don’t know what it is,maybe the spirit of her husband and child?

 

three colors blue journalist

A journalist appears on Julie’s door,Julie turned down her request.You must give credit to Juliette  Binoche’s understated performance,there is a certain gravity and seriousness in it,Kieslowski was worried about her being too young to play the role,but as soon as he saw her performance,he knew she was Julie.Now her character is not asking for sympathy but resisting others in a distant way.Which arouses the theme of this film.Can one live with complete liberty?Can we live without past,without memory,without love,without commitment,without work? Is it desirable? We will find the answer at the end of the film.

 

Julie goes back to her house and fetched the unfinished symphony score.As we see the notes on it,we hear the music.The complete score of this film is wrote before the film being shoot,just like what Morricone did with the score of Once Upon a Time in the West.It is more like a pretext of the story,a excuse for the character’s behavior.It serves more in a narrative function instead of the normal function of emphasis of a certain image.

 

Julie then tried many ways to compensate the void internally,like creating physical pains by scratching her hands on the brick wall,changing her names,creating physical exhaustion by swimming in the pool alone etc.However,she is not completely disconnected from the outside world.When she sees some bad guys beat a boy in the street,she wants to offer help.When she is locked out of her own room,she is so vulnerable,she is putting all these up by herself.

 

There are two interesting scenes happening around the coffee shop.The first one is the conversation of Julie and Olivier is interrupted by some flute notes,the man in the street is playing the exact tune of the unfinished score by Julie’s husband.Why this coincidence? We don’t know.Another interesting scene is Julie dip the sugar cube into the coffee,there is a story about it,Kieslowski wants the scene to last only five seconds,not a second more,not a second less,so they took half a day to find such a sugar cube which meets his requirement.A great example of the director’s  attentions to tiny details.

 

three colors blue split image

There aren’t much to say about the rest of the plot(the trilogy connection scenes will be mentioned in my following posts),but a very interesting scene must be mentioned.It is the split image of Olivier towards the end of the story,it is said that the actor,Benoît Régent,has unbelievable physical resemblance to the co-screen writer Piesiewicz,so in the film,the Régent character is trying to finish the master composer’s work,while outside the film,Piesiewicz also tries to finish his cooperation work with Kieslowski after his death.

 

three colors blue julie cry

Finally,the brilliant pan shot at the end,it means now all these people have become a part of Julie’s life,it’s a sequence of hope,after all those gloomy shots throughout the film.The final scene,is written as “Julie cries helplessly” in the script,but how brilliant the director only shows a single drop of tear flows  down her face!!

All in all,this film is the kind of classic that every time you watch it,you feel like you are watching a new film.There are so many details to pick up along the way,I don’t think you can completely appreciate it in one viewing,so watch it more times as I did,I promise you will find it rewarding.

 

 

 


   

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  • Of the films of that trilogy, this is my favorite. When I first saw it, I was sucked into it and wouldn’t leave. I was seduced by Juliette Binoche’s grief and her sudden indifference towards everything. I love the detail that Kieslowski displayed into that film. It’s definitely the kind of drama I would love to make.

    • I agree with you,Steven,this is also the kind of film I would love to make.Emotionally accessible,artistically exquisite,and full of noticeable details.

  • I thought I was the only one to prefer Blue over the other installments. I remember my first viewing of this, and being completely knocked sideways by the sudden hits of orchestral music and the sudden shift of the color palette to blue. In fact, every time I see that moment, it affects me in exactly the same way, with the same precise chill up my spine. Few films can move me to the point of unconscious visceral reaction, but Blue does every time.

    • Well,you got at least two companies here!! YES,the Zbigniew Preisner score is magical.The first time I viewed the trilogy,I was overwhelmed by the cinematography of RED,by that time I did not enjoy BLUE that much because I did not notice the details.But it grew on me every time I watched it again,after this viewing,I gave it a 9 out of 10.

  • Thanks for the comments.Excellent post. I just can’t choose a favorite between RED and BLUE I love them both equally. But I know I need to pickup the new BluRay set so I can rewatch them and listen to the commentary tracks.

    • I used to love RED most but BLUE took the NO1 spot after my 2nd viewing.You definitely need to pick up either the MK2 or CC blu-ray to re-watch it over and over again,and you definitely must listen to the gentle voice of Annette Insdorf!!

  • Good review. I think it’s my favorite trilogy. Red is my favorite entry, but all are essential.
    Here’s my review of Red if you are interested:
    http://intheframefilmreviews.blogspot.ca/2012/03/100-movies-no-89-three-colors-red.html

    • Thanks for the comments,Steve.It is one of my fave trilogies too.I suggest you watch Blue more times,this is the one which has the richest details in the entire trilogy.I surely will check out your post!!

  • What a film, and great insights you provide here, I missed that commentary track. Blue does get plenty of love in the blogosphere I’ve noticed. I’m not sure which is my favorite of the trilogy, as they are all good! Can totally understand the need to watch it 4 times, lots of little details ( :
    The ending of Blue is open to debate. I wrote about it in my review:
    http://moviesandsongs365.blogspot.com/2011/07/three-colors-blue-1993.html

    • Thanks ,Chris,the commentary track is a must-hear.I’m checking your piece.

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