Do you recall at the start of this year when I happened to mention my New Year’s resolution? Well, Kieślowski’s Three Colours Trilogy was something I admitted to have never seen, and that this year I was vowing to see all three films in the trilogy.
I am glad to inform you all, that I have finally watched these wonderful films, and I am little baffled as to why it took me this long to do so. I won’t give you any lame excuses as to why I didn’t seek this films out until now, as there is no excuse which is good enough to explain my ignorance and idleness.
Often nowadays, there seems to be another ‘masterpiece’ released every other week. The word doesn’t really hold the same value as it did before. Some critics use the term so loosely now, that it feels a little hollow and empty. However, Kieślowski’s Three Colours Trilogy is a masterpiece, in every respect of the term. These three films are an example of the director’s skill and knowledge of filmmaking, representing his intellect and humanity.
“Kieślowski makes it feel like a dream, that is slowly fading away from memory.”
The Three Colours trilogy have the power of being able to view as individual films on their own, you are not forced to watch the first two films to understand what is happening in the third film. Still, once you have seen Blue there is an overwhelming need to complete the trilogy, as if your sanity and your life depends on it.
Blue is the first of three films that comprise the Three Colours trilogy, themed on the French Revolutionary ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity. According to Kieślowski, the subject of the film is liberty, specifically emotional liberty, rather than its social or political meaning.
We begin with a car crash on a remote highway, which is witnessed by a teenage boy who will later make contact with the only survivor, Julie (Juliette Binoche). Unlike the melodrama of Hollywood, there isn’t a fiery explosion or slow motion shots of the car rolling down a hillside. Instead, we see hints of what is to come when blue break fluid is seen leaking as the car travels. The camera turns with the boy when he hears the sound of the car crash, only for us to see in a split second, the car hitting a tree.
A traditional Hollywood would have made this scene overly dramatic. Instead, Kieślowski makes it feel like a dream, that is slowly fading away from memory, perhaps indicating that time can heal all wounds?
Julie is the wife of the famous composer Patrice de Courcy, and she is left without a husband and a child after the crash. We see her recovering in hospital, consumed by sadness. This sadness drives her to a suicide attempt, again this isn’t shown in a melodramatic fashion, and the acting is natural and authentic. We fully believe that Binoche is Julie.
“Julie is haunted by her husband’s music.”
After being released from hospital begins a purge of her former life, destroying her husband’s pieces (it is hinted at that she helped to write them and may be the real genius), and she empties the family house and putting it up for sale. And with that, Julie takes an apartment in Paris without telling anyone, her only memento being a mobile of blue beads that the viewer assumes belonged to her daughter.
Julie disassociates herself from all past memories and distances herself from former friendships. A former collaborator of her husband’s called Olivier (Benoît Régent) is in love with her, and before she leaves for Paris, they spend the night together. Olivier is keen to finish Patrice’s final score, a piece celebrating Europe becoming reunited after the end of the cold war.
However, Julie is less than keen for the musical piece being completed. There are moments where she recalls a memory, only for the screen to be flooded with blue and for snippets of classical music being played. Julie is haunted by her husband’s music, and there is even a street performer playing a very familiar tune; she well and truly can’t escape from her past.
Slowly, Julie readjusts to her new life. She befriends an exotic dancer named Lucille (Charlotte Véry), and they become close. She uncovers a secret about her husband, and this prompts her to reconsider the collaboration with Olivier. Unlike, Hollywood films, there isn’t a montage or an uplifting pop song to depict Julie’s journey.
“Kieślowski managed to understand what it is that makes us human.”
In terms of editing, Kieślowski uses fade-outs, which are traditionally used in movies to represent time passing or to conclude a certain scene, but here instead bring the viewer back to the point in time when the fade-out began. According to Kieślowski, “at a certain moment, time really does pass for Julie while at the same time, it stands still. Not only does her music come back to haunt her at a certain point, but time stands still for a moment.”
What we get with Blue, is a film that goes against our expectations for a melodrama. We are so used to certain genre conventions and narrative structures, and Kieślowski removes all of these. In reality, grief is messy and complicated. It is hard to describe in words, the feeling of loss and despair.
However, Kieślowski has managed to depict grief through the use of visual storytelling. In an interview with The Guardian, Kieślowski described his objective as the following, “You could describe my job as a game with the viewer – to give him what he wants but at the same time covertly to slip in something that he might not be expecting.”
With this in mind, I will simply say that Kieślowski managed to achieve his task. When beginning this trilogy, I wasn’t sure what to expect and was delighted by this heartbreaking beautiful film. I needed this film in my life right now, and like Julie, I feel like I am finding my own sense of peace dealing with the grief I am currently going through. Kieślowski managed to understand what it is that makes us human. Our emotions.