Blue is the first film in a trilogy
known as "Three Colours
," the two films following being White
and then Red
, the colors of the French
flag. Director Krzysztof Kieslowski
essentially created art on film
with this trilogy, each full of colour, symbolism and poignant
Blue centers on a woman (played by actress Juliette Binoche) coping with the tragic aftermath of a car accident in which she lost both her husband and her daughter. A primary theme present in the film consists of how an individual deals with the death of loved ones. The stylistic techniques that Kieslowski employs reinforce the protagonist’s distressing conflicts by utilizing color, sound, and non-linear narrative. Julie, the main character, suffers sorrow and confusion as she attempts to sort out the fragments of her life, and Blue’s somber-colored mise-en-scene combined with intense musical sound skillfully reflects Julie’s emotions, displaying the pain of loss with incredible beauty- a sort of "rhapsody in Blue", if you will.
The film begins with an onslaught of azure color. While a car drives through a quiet stretch of land, both the sky and the ground are made to appear in different shades of blue (surprise!). The foggy, depressing colors surrounding the vehicle significantly foreshadow the accident about to take place. Once the crash occurs, a boy runs up to the steaming car, and the smoke emanating from the wreck even appears faintly blue in the landscape, as if the tragedy of the accident was radiating from the automobile.
Kieslowski’s use of monochromatic color design at the start of the film sets up its relevancy for the rest of the movie. Not only does the shade of blue haunt and pervade Julie’s world afterwards, demonstrating how the memory of that tragic morning continues to remain with her, but also the dramatic color supports the sorrowful, bleak and sometimes ambiguous narrative.
The blue coloring brilliantly manipulated within the cinematography cues the viewer to concentrate on particularly eye-catching images, directing one to take in the significance of the catastrophic upheaval and hurt in Julie’s life. For instance, shortly after the wreck she is shown eating a large piece of blue candy. This image of Julie shoving the hard color down her throat reinforces the idea that she is consuming, and is consumed by the pain she has been dealt.
Another example of this is the pool Julie swims in once she moves out of her home. Pools are normally blue, but the incredible luminous color in this pool appears abnormally bright. The utilization of the color here directs the viewer to scan the two-dimensional space and notice how powerfully it fills the frame. Here, Julie essentially bathes in the tragedy, still swimming in the pain of the accident.
The color continues to invade Julie’s world through reflections and glass, such as the blue that effuses out of the chandelier she carries from her old house into her new apartment. The chandelier is the first thing she hangs up, demonstrating how she still holds onto her former life. Also, in several moments blue is reflected in windows around Julie, as though even the light shining in her contains only melancholy. Kieslowski’s application of color in this way interrupts the idea of the diegetic world, because the viewer is not sure whether the color shining as blue is actually Julie’s perception or if it is meant to appear only to those watching the film. This confusion in the diegesis works artistically in a very un-Classical Hollywood-like manner and also reflects the idea of Julie’s agitation. The director’s purposeful disturbance of her world forces the viewer to experience distraction and tumult as she does.
The confusion and sense of tragic loss is reinforced also through the occasional bursts of orchestral music in the film. When combined with the color palette of cool tones, it comes across doubly effective and creates artistically crafted, ambiguous scenes.
For example, the scene where Julie first wakes in a chair after the accident, a sudden blast of orchestra music is heard and a blue light glows all around her and glares through the windows. Though the scene is brief, the viewer is caught off guard by such a sudden break in linearity. Does Julie hear the composed music of her dead husband? Or do only those watching the film hear it? And once again, does she visualize this quick suffusion of blue in the room she sits in? Kieslowski utilizes both color and sound here without regarding whether or not it fits a realistic world in order to reinforce the emotions of the protagonist.
Another inventive way the filmmaker employs sound is the moments when Julie reads the sheet music composed by her husband. The first instance this is done, soft piano music is heard as she reads the notes, and blue color is again reflected on her face. The piano notes sound appropriately bare, alone, slow and sad. The slow music combined with the color on her face again reflects her state of mind. Another instance where this tactic is effectively applied is when she finds the compositions she plans on throwing away. A resounding chorus is heard as a finger passes over the notes on the page, and the compelling sound continues to be heard as Julie walks outside and throws the sheet music into a trash compactor. The chorus voices die as the pages are destroyed, artfully illustrating how the music is disappearing from human eyes and ears because of the pain Julie feels from hearing or seeing her dead husband’s creation.
The culmination of these artistic manipulations occurs during the last few scenes of the movie as well. Once Julie has learned about her husband’s affair and gives his former lover their old home, she is shown reading her husband Patrice's music in her home. The sound of the music is heard as loud and arresting as before, but there are no black outs, suggesting that Julie is working through the pain. The music continues as she goes to visit Olivier, a friend of theirs, and also as they make love, demonstrating audibly the power of emotions she feels as she connects once more to a man who was also once close to Patrice.
Kieslowski’s Blue is an artistic masterpiece that employs the potency of color and music in outstanding ways. How one copes with the utterly tragic loss of one’s family is a major theme in the film, and by crafting the mise-en-scene with striking blue shades as well as utilizing music in inventive manners, the filmmaker reinforces the theme gorgeously.
This is probably quite obviously one of my favourite films ever.
The films White and Red are equally brilliant, and are best watched in consecutive order- though they don't have to be in order to fully comprehend them. In each movie, be sure to watch as characters from the other films in the trilogy pop up in a scene or two.