Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Three Colours Blue: introspection and liberation


Having watched a whole range of Kryzsztof Kieslowski’s Polish films over the past year, I have now revisited his famous Three Colours Trilogy. The three films- Blue, White and Red, were all filmed within a tight time frame and edited at the same time. I think it was the director’s first foray into French film making, and he died shortly after the release of the third of the trilogy, ‘Three Colours Red.’

There are a number of memorable moments in the first film, ‘Three Colours Blue’, which has Juliette Binoche (as Julie) in many of the frames. I remembered, from seeing the film twenty years ago, the shots of Julie swimming in the pool, enveloped by beautiful blue water, a blue bathing suit, and each sequence seeming to become a deeper blue, as though it is all filmed through the prism of a blue lens. Julie is grieving, after the road accident that killed her famous husband and her child, and she is curled up in the water like a foetus, her hands cupping her ears, trying to absorb everything that has happened, or perhaps block it out.

The film uses the colour blue as a repeated motif, just as the other two films will (sometimes) use white and red. Another strong image is of a glassy blue mobile that Julie is enamoured with. Julie stands beside and behind the crystals, and a glorious blue light splashes over her whole face as she examines the mobile for some deeper meaning. We all need to hang on to something from our treasured past.

Julie is told by her doctor at the start of the film that her husband and daughter are both dead. She is lying prostrate on a hospital bed. We know the doctor is talking to her because we can hear his voice. The only vision of him, however, is reflected through one of her eyeballs. It is a classic Kieslowski shot- difficult to capture- an intense close up of Julie’s eye is needed- and it emphasises the tragic elements that are in the doctor’s words.

The colour blue creeps into even the unlikeliest of scenes. Julie comes home to find a large mouse in her kitchen, hovering over several just born blind and hairless babies. The image, in close up, is startling and alien, and yet there is that soft suffused spot of blue light in the background.

It is the detail and the intellect that makes watching these films closely, rewarding. The introspective side of Julie is shown when she watches herself reflected in a spoon that is dangling on top of a glass vase. Moments later, in a Parisian café, she seems to be avoiding the attentions of a family friend who loves her, and has tracked her down after several months of searching. Instead of regarding him, she is more intent on studying the way in which coffee slowly absorbs an entire sugar cube, grain by grain. Julie is not ready to deal with anything that is not abstract.

At the end of the film we know there is a release, or liberation, for her, as she makes love with this same man. We seem them through a grainy window, the faces pressed against glass, almost like they are in an aquarium, and there is no intellect, nothing cerebral, just pleasure and release. The final shot features a close up of Julie’s face, a hazy blue glow enveloping her, tears running freely down her soft face. She is dealing with her grief. There is a noticeable smile seconds before the final fade. It is vague, and not emphatic in any way, but it is definitely there, and means everything.

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