Friday, 26 March 2010

Trois couleurs: Bleu / Three Colours Blue

Bathed in hues of deep blue which reinforce Julie's desolation and depression, this story is an exploration of the emotions of grief and the rebuilding of life after bereavement. Juliette Binoche's performance as the musically gifted Julie is as powerful as it is nuanced and subtle. The way in which she physically embodies grief and then seeks to expunge all reminders of her husband and daughter following their tragic and brutal death in a car crash, draws the viewer in and engages the emotions in a compelling way.

From her attempted overdose as she recovers in hospital to the stripping and abandonment of the family country mansion, you are always wondering if she is going to teeter over the brink and into psychosis and an ever deepening downward spiral.

Her attempt to withdraw from her former existence and begin anew, unknown to everyone, succeeds to begin with. However, some from her old life, as well as new acquaintances, slowly begin to demand things from her as they demonstrate their need of her and their commitment to engage with her and make themselves vulnerable. Julie battles these tensions as she seeks to establish a new sense of self-identity. The turning point comes when she tracks down a manuscript that her husband was working on - a magnum opus - for the unification of 12 states in Europe to be played simultaneously by 12 orchestras in the capital cities. It is the destruction of this manuscript that is the final act that frees her from her past.

In her new apartment in an old quarter in Paris, one of the other residents, Lucille, who works in a strip and sex club in Pigalle, is in need of Julie's support. The very fact that Julie responds is enough to give Lucille the encouragement she seeks. In the ensuing conversation Julie asks her why she does what she does. In response Lucille says "Because I like it." This seems to become a pivotal moment from which a new Julie begins to emerge - a Julie who gradually gets back in touch with emotions and her creativity and who, in a new way, begins to embrace life again.

Near the beginning of the film Julie turns to Olivier in her desolation in search of comfort. Olivier is a colleague of her husband whom she suspects has feelings for her which he freely admits to when asked directly. (It is worth noting that my wife feels Julie has been having an affair with Olivier.) It is with them both in his bed that the film ultimately ends. Another painful pin prick that awakens the emotions is the discovery by Julie that her husband has a mistress (what is it with the French?) who after the car accident discovers she is pregnant by him.

Julie never loses her humanity and consistently displays acts of kindness and compassion. She ensures her mother is taken care of in a very good nursing home and visits her periodically. Julie is frustrated that her mother believes her to be her mother's sister but accepts it as being down to her dementia.

This is the first film in Krzysztof Kieslowski's Trois Couleurs trilogy based on the French national flag and national motto Liberty, equality and fraternity. It explores the theme of liberty in Julie as she seeks an existence free from the emotional demands and ties of her past life. She seeks independence and an existence that is indebted to no-one and is devoid of the distractions of love, grief and other emotions.

It is a powerful enactment of story. I am looking forward to white and red!

I'll give it 8/10.

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