Blue Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski
Blue is a 1993 French psychological drama written, produced, and directed by the acclaimed Polish director Krzysztof Kieślowski. Blue is the first in the Three Colors trilogy, themed on the French Revolutionary ideals; it is followed by White and Red.
According to Kieślowski, the background of the film is liberty, specifically emotional liberty, rather than its social or political meaning.
Cast and Credit
Juliette Binoche: Julie
Benoit Regent: Olivier
Florence Pernel: Sandrine
Charlotte Very: Lucille
Released by Miramax Films. Director Krzysztof Kieslowski. Producer Marin Karmitz. Screenplay Krzysztof Piesiewicz and Krzysztof Kieslowski. Cinematographer Slawomir Idziak. Editor Jacques Witta. Sound Jean-Claude Laureux. Music Zbigniew Preisner. Set design Claude Lenoir. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.
In Blue, a chic Parisian woman, Julie loses her young daughter Anna and her husband Patrice, a celebrated composer in a car accident, determined to forget the past and start a new life without emotional attachments.
“Julie Vignon: Now I have only one thing left to do: nothing. I don’t want any belongings, any memories. No friends, no love. Those are all traps.”
She takes an apartment in a working-class neighborhood and tries to lose herself in the anonymous life of the city. But she is drawn irresistibly into the lives of others: first by Oliver, her husbands assistant, who wants her to help in completing his final score; next by Lucille, a prostitute who is in danger of being expelled from Julie’s building; then by Sandrine, a lawyer whom Julie discovers was her husband’s lover, and who is carrying his child.
In Blue, liberty becomes a tragic notion. Julie is free because she has been violently separated from her past and from her family. With no emotional ties, and wealthy enough to do what she wants, she steps off into a void. Kieslowski return several times to the tomblike image of a huge, deserted indoor swimming pool, where Julie goes to wear herself out and neutralize her senses. At the same time, there are moments of penetratingly sharp, physical pain, as when Julie, returning from her perfunctory lovemaking session with Olivier, scrapes her knuckles along a wall. Pain is its own escape from pain; intense feeling is the same as no feeling.
Blue is a film of an intense subjectivity, where camera sometimes occupies the body of the actor (Julie lying in her hospital bed after the accident, sees the world at an angle) and even swoons when the character does (the periodic fades to black, which represent sudden, unwelcome recoveries of memory for Julie).
Cinematographer Slawomir Idziak, shoots with a depth of field so shallow, a focus so precise, that his lens can barely hold single, small objects in clear view. The cut glass hanging that Julie takes from her husband’s studio, or the metallic candy wrapper that her daughter held in the wind just before the accident – these and other emotionally charged objects are allowed impressions and free-floating clouds of color (blue of course), hanging spiritual effusions.
The sound mix of the early part of the film renders the dialogue almost inaudible, with only the sudden, sharp passages of music-form the deceased husband’s unfinished concerto fog, involuntary memories that bring back all that Julie has tried to forget. Time stops, and becomes meaningless: it’s impossible to know how many days, weeks, or months the action occupies, when there are no external events to mark their passing. Julie is intrigued, though just barely, by a flute player she sees in the street. At first he is playing for coins; later he is seen descending from a limousine; still later, found lying unconscious. Another story is unfolding alongside her, although its episodes seem out of order, scrambled, and unaccountable.
Julie’s journey back from this frightening, to perfect freedom begins when Lucille, the prostitute, forces her way into Julie’s apartment, where she notices the blue chandelier – she had one too, she says suggesting to Julie that there are tragedies other than hers in the world (Lucille’s trauma never dramatized in the movie but seems to be linked to her father.) Julie’s discovery of sympathy for Lucille is her first opening to the world. The tight framing relaxes, swelling to the possibility of a two-shot that allows Julie and Lucille, two lonely souls, to share the same image.
Julie’s husband has left some unfinished business behind; a concerto to honor the unification of Europe, which it is left to the widow to complete. Julie may, in fact be the actual author of her husband’s music (a possibility Kieslowski leaves open), but she is certainly his most gifted interpreter, bringing the dead score back to life after Olivier nearly buries it with a trite orchestration. And she participates in another resurrection when she shares in the birth of Sandrine’s baby, giving the child full rights to the father’s name and property. When the unification concert is finally heard, it occasions an extraordinary burst of imagery; a collective epiphany, in which the Kieslowski’s camera pans through space, catching each of characters who has been involved in Julie’s tale as it sweeps along in one continuous movement, ending with the unborn baby outlined in the blue waves of an ultrasound image.