Thursday, 11 August 2011

Places: France/Films and cinema: Three Colours: Blue (1993, Krzysztof Kieslowski).

Sourced from the Wikipedia page 'Three Colors: Blue'...because I live dangerously...

Three Colors: Blue (French: Trois Couleurs: Bleu, Polish: Trzy kolory. Niebieski) is a 1993 French film 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 subject of the film is liberty, specifically emotional liberty, rather than its social or political meaning. Set in Paris, it depicts Julie, a woman whose husband and child are killed in a car accident. Suddenly set free from her familial bonds, Julie attempts to cut herself off from everything and live in isolation from her former ties, but finds that she cannot free herself from human connections.

Julie, wife of the famous composer Patrice de Courcy, must cope with the death of her husband and daughter in an automobile accident she herself survives. While recovering in the hospital, Julie attempts suicide by overdose, but cannot swallow the pills. After being released from the hospital, Julie closes up the house she lived in with her family and takes an apartment in Paris without telling anyone, or keeping any clothing or objects from her old life, except for a chandelier of blue beads that presumably belonged to her daughter.
For the remainder of the film, Julie disassociates herself from all past memories and distances herself from former friendships, as can be derived from a conversation she has with her mother who suffers from Alzheimer's disease and believes Julie is her own sister Marie-France. She also destroys the score for her late husband's last commissioned, though unfinished, work: a piece celebrating European unity, following the end of the cold war. It is strongly suggested that she wrote, or at least co-wrote, her husband's last work. Snatches of the music haunt her throughout the film.
She reluctantly befriends an exotic dancer who is having an affair with one of the neighbours and helps her when she needs moral support. Despite her desire to live anonymously and alone, life in Paris forces Julie to confront elements of her past that she would rather not face, including Olivier, a friend of the couple, also a composer and former assistant of Patrice's at the conservatory, who is in love with her, and the fact that she is suspected to be the true author of her late husband's music. Olivier appears in a TV interview announcing that he shall try to complete Patrice's commission, and Julie also discovers that her late husband was having an affair.
While both trying to stop Olivier from completing the score and finding out who her husband's mistress was, she becomes more engaged despite her own efforts not to be. She tracks down Sandrine, Patrice's mistress, and finds out that she is carrying his child; Julie arranges for her to have her husband's house and recognition of his paternity for the child. This provokes her to begin a relationship with Olivier, and to resurrect her late husband's last composition, which has been changing according to her notes on Olivier's work. Olivier decides not to incorporate the changes suggested by Julie, stating that this piece is now his music and has ceased to be Patrice's. He says that she must either accept his composition with all its roughness or she must allow people to know the truth about her composition. She agrees on the grounds that the truth about her husband's music would not be revealed as her own work.
In the final sequence, the Unity of Europe piece is played (which features chorus and a solo soprano singing Saint Paul's 1 Corinthians 13 epistole in Greek), and images are seen of all the people Julie has affected by her actions. The final image is of Julie, crying - the first time she does so in the film.


  • Juliette Binoche as Julie de Courcy (née Vignon)
  • Benoît Régent as Olivier Benôit
  • Charlotte Very as Lucille
  • Emmanuelle Riva as Madame Vignon, Julie's mother
  • Florence Pernel as Sandrine
  • Guillaume De Tonquédec as Serge


Music plays an intricate element of the plot in that it illustrates Julie's efforts to be isolated from everything but cannot do it, such as music cannot be made with a single note but through harmony with all others and how everyone has (or represents) a different kind of music, such as the union of Julie/Patrice had a special tone, which is quite different and more raw with the union of Julie/Olivier.
A symbol common to the three films is that of an underlying link or thing that keeps the protagonist linked to his/her past. In the case of Blue, it is the lamp of blue beads and a symbol seen throughout the film in the TV of people falling (doing either sky diving or bungee jumping), the director is careful in showing falls with no cords at the beginning of the film but as the story develops the image of cords becomes more and more apparent as a symbol of a link to the past. In the case of White the item that links Karol to his past is a 2 Fr. coin and a plaster bust that he stole from an antique store in Paris. In the case of Red the judge never closes or locks his doors and his fountain pen, which stops working at a crucial point in the story.
Another recurring image related to the spirit of the film is that of elderly people recycling bottles: In Three Colors: Blue, an old woman in Paris is recycling bottles and Julie does not notice her (in the spirit of freedom), in Three Colors: White, an old man also in Paris is trying to recycle a bottle but cannot reach the container and Karol looks at him with a sinister grin on his face (in the spirit of equality) and in Three Colors: Red an old woman cannot reach the hole of the container and Valentine helps her (in the spirit of fraternity).


Blue was an international co-production between the French companies CED Productions, Eurimages, France 3 Cinéma and MK2 Productions, the Swiss company CAB Productions and the Polish company Studio Filmowe TOR.
Like the other films in the trilogy, Blue makes frequent visual allusions to its title: numerous scenes are shot with blue filters or blue lighting, and many objects are blue. When Julie thinks about the musical score that she has tried to destroy, blue light overwhelms the screen. The film also includes several references to the colors of the tricolor that inspired Kieślowski's trilogy: several scenes are dominated by red light, and in one scene, children dressed in white bathing suits with red floaters jump into the blue swimming pool. Another scene features a link with the next film in the trilogy: Julie is seen accidentally entering a courtroom where Karol, the Polish main character of White, is being divorced by Dominique, his estranged French wife.


Three Colors: Blue received critical acclaim upon release. Rotten Tomatoes reports that out of 32 reviews, 100% of them gave the film a positive write-up. Marjorie Baumgarten of the Austin Chronicle said: "Blue is a film that engages the mind, challenges the senses, implores a resolution, and tells, with aesthetic grace and formal elegance, a good story and a political allegory."


  • Venice Film Festival, 1993: Best Film, Best Actress: Juliette Binoche, Best Cinematography: Sławomir Idziak
  • César Award, 1993: Best Actress: Juliette Binoche, Best Sound, Best Film Editing
  • Goya Awards (Spain's Academy Awards): Best European Film

*For me, watching 'Three Colors: Blue' was a real turning point in the way I watch films- having a significant emotional and psychological effect on me, largely credited to the beautiful cinematography and the brilliant portrayal of the widow, as played by Juliette Binoche. 'Blue' is never obvious, always subtle, and certainly heart breaking- a film to make you feel the depths of emotions rise to the surface. Beautiful and painful. 

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