Blue, the first in Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colors trilogy, tells the story of a ghost musician, Julie, who is caught in a grieving cycle after her husband and daughter pass away in a car accident. Unable to cut herself out of existence through a failed suicide attempt upon hearing about their deaths, Julie tries the next best thing by cutting herself out of every relationship she has (with the exception of her mother, who has dementia and rarely recognizes Julie) by moving quietly to a small apartment in Paris. The subsequent focus of the film examines not only Julie’s personal development following her trauma, but also how Julie’s experience with trauma impacts those around her.
I know what you’re probably thinking: A film that is French? Arthouse? Drama? About a grieving widow with a mother who can’t even remember her? That’s every cocktail ingredient for one seriously depressing film. However, Blue is far from this. Rather than creating a film about pain (sadly, what is too often expected of French cinema), Kieślowski’s film is truly about emotional liberty—the special kind that can only occur after empathy is forged through tragedy and trauma. This liberty serves to be a fascinating concept across the film, as it is clear Kieślowski’s definition of the term emphasizes freedom from grief, but not freedom from needing others.
It’s an injustice to only give Blue a short film review, but the alternative seems to be to write a novel on it. To summarize for now, Blue is a cinematic triumph dripping with unapologetic symbolism, unrelenting affect, and a wonderful central performance by the fabulous Juliette Binoche. Every aspect of the filmmaking appears to serve multiple purposes—music is used as a plot device to represent Julie’s intrusive memories, lighting and coloring are used to track her emotional stages of change, and sudden edits are used to not only explain time progression across the film, but also challenge how we understand time as it is experienced from Julie’s point of view. The result is a visceral cinematic experience that indulges nearly all of the senses.
Watch it When: You’re looking to expand your definition of freedom.
While you Watch: Can there be emotional liberty without some degree of interpersonal dependence, or is the ability to maintain interpersonal ties a necessary ingredient for true emotional liberty?