Three Colours: Blue opens behind the moving wheels of a car, with the rather haunting sounds of the engine and the road. Prior to the accident, we only see, briefly, the husband and the daughter (who die in the crash), but not Julie (who survives). The colour blue is euphorically displayed as the girl hangs a huge blue candy wrapper out of the window.
The collision coincides with the ball ball landing in the cup – a boy is playing roadside. On seeing the car crashed, the boy looks over, as a beach ball falls out the back of the car. At the end of the film, the kid is revealed to have the necklace that was never found from the crash.
The sound design in the oping moments of Blue is essential. Kieślowski makes us wait before we meet Juliette Binoche’s Julie. We hear sounds of TV buzz, heavy breathing, even her huge sighs – which threaten to take your own breath away. Sadly, the first sounds Julie hears, is the nurse informing her of the terrible news. Wrapped in blankets, battered and bruised, Julie is already suffocating.
Glass is symbolic again, this time it tends to shatter and break. Like the scene in the hospital, when Julie attempts unsuccessfully to end her own life. The nurse sees Julie her through the glass of the window.
The first startling time Julie hears the music of her dead husband. A blue haze fills the frame, as the composition kicks in, and the camera pulls away, then pushes back towards her. A miraculous cinematic moment. Julie will have several blackouts during the narrative.
In her grief, Julie yearns for a mournful kind of closure. She arranges for the sale of her house, destroys her husband’s unfinished music, and sleeps with his collaborator, Olivier (who pines for her). Julie is, at first, revealing a kind of anger, and resentment in her grieving eyes.
Tiny distractions enter Julie’s world. The sounds of mice in a closet; knocking on door following a scuffle outside causes tension; a flickering light on her face, from a kid across the way reflecting light with a small mirror.
There are several close-up shots of Julie running a finger along the music notes, which cranks up the music soundtrack. Which is distorted and broken when thrown into the garbage truck. Early in the film, Julie self harms as she drags her clenched knuckles across an uneven brick wall.
The blue bead chandelier is the only item from her old life that she takes with her. At first, she tries to break it, but fails. It continues to be a motif of Julie’s grounded reminder, and a treasured memory.
Julie’s private moments of solace come when she is in the swimming pool. And the most blatant use of blue in the film. A kind of escape haven for the grieving woman, longing for space away from the reality that reminds her of the pain and loss.
At times, Julie tries to spend as much time as she can under the water. Especially so when there are other people around – in one scene she shows her frustration of not being able to isolate herself. The marvelous eye for unapologetic lighting and movement to demonstrate mourning and self-discovery from Slawomir Idziak is incredible.
What she would perhaps think is against her better judgement, Julie befriends a young woman, Lucille, who has her own adult issues. The friendship gives Julie a new purpose. And the exotic club that Lucille works at, gives Kieślowski all manner of mirrors and windows to utilise.
Kieślowski’s experimenting with visual styles is never unnoticed. Circles, and the circular journey, being a big theme in Three Colours: Blue, one stand-out shot is when we view Julie through rolls of music composition. In pieces, obstructed, isolated, surrounded by reminders, she can not avoid coming full circle.
Emmanuelle Riva plays Julie’s mother, who struggles to remember her daughter. Ironic, given Julie is eager to forget. Such issues shown more than once in reflections of faces. Towards the end, Olivier is reflected through the piano while on the phone.
Perhaps an attempt at leaving her life, perhaps a last stitch attempt to escape the world around her, Julie sees how far she can push herself in another pool session.
Close-ups of the fingers on notes as the music plays, is far more significant later, when Julie and Olivier try to finish her husband’s work. Like the sugar cube in the coffee, or Julie’s eye at the beginning of Blue, Kieślowski emphasises how she views the small things, as well as the notion of confinement.
Zbigniew Preisner composed the film’s score before the actual shooting began, and thus formed a basis of the film’s heartbeat. As Julie reunites herself with the music aspect of her past, one shot has bobbles of blue light reminiscent of the bead chandelier.
The final moments, Julie pressing against glass as Olivier makes love to her, the music seemingly finished, bellows out. In the final scene, Julie’s face in the window, as the tears finally fall, and a reflection of the outside world imposed over her. Binoche is ridiculously real, without hardly moving a hair.