(France/Poland 1993 104m) DVD1/2
Aka. Trois Couleurs: Bleu
p Marin Karmitz d Krzysztof Kieslowski w Krzysztof Piesiewicz, Krzysztof Kieslowski ph Slawomir Idziak ed Jacques Witta m Zbigniew Preisner art Claude Lenoir
Juliette Binoche (Julie), Benoît Régent (Olivier), Florence Pernel (Sandrine), Charlotte Véry (Lucille), Hélène Vincent (journalist), Claude Duneton (Doctor), Hugues Quester (Patrice), Emmanuelle Riva (Mère), Philippe Volter, Julie Delpy, Zbigniew Zamachowski,
What sort of a tagline is that, I hear you ask? In the movie it’s merely an account number, but it’s one of those rare almost frighteningly prophetic numbers in cinema. You see, 270641 is Kieslowski’s birthday, leaving just the last three numbers 196; Kieslowski died, prematurely of heart failure at 54, in 1996. A coincidence, for sure, but a rather disconcerting one. And talking of disconcerting, this is a very disconcerting film, probably the most cerebral of the trilogy. It’s also possibly disconcerting in another non-existent meaning; someone who goes out of their way to stop a concerto being heard might be said to be disconcerting. Such is the attitude of Juliette Binoche here. This is a film about grief and the ways we cope with it. People have been known to cope with grief in bizarre, selfish and even cruel ways (think of Samantha Morton’s Morvern Callar, for example; body in the bath anyone?). But Binoche, Kieslowski and Piesewicz make her pain almost unbearable. When she is asked by her maid at her old country house why she is crying, the maid replies “because you’re not.” She’s crying not just because she’s upset, but because the most affected person is so upset she can’t even show it.
Julie is married seemingly happily to her composer husband, when they, along with her five year old daughter, are involved in a car crash. Only she survives and the nation is in mourning because the composer was working on a piece to be entitled ‘Concerto for the Unification of Europe’. Julie decides to break off completely with her former life, even destroying the original manuscript, though a copy had previously been made by an acquaintance who suspected she would do just that. Eventually she realises that her marriage was a sham as her husband actually loved someone else, at which she blows her cover as the person actually responsible for the majority of her husband’s work, and releases it to a grateful world, at the same time finally letting go of her grief.
Kieslowski’s trilogy about the French Tricolor was supposed to be simply about the mantra “liberté, égalité, fraternite”, yet is so much more besides. The colour blue also represents the soul of the film, from the discarded foil wrapping in the doomed car to the grey-blue skies to the blue glass mobile she keeps as her only memento. As she says to her mother, “I don’t want any belongings, any memories, any friends.” They are all traps that can trap you. Julie fears her own past, and tries to escape it. She tries to cut off ties with Olivier by sleeping with him, but then he misses her all the more. She may have lost her family, but he has lost her, and he sets out to find her. Kieslowski introduces his usual trick of a continuing character (remember that guy on the bike in Dekalog?), this time an old woman trying to place a bottle in a bottle bank, and he follows this with one of the most gorgeous shots of the female face in the history of cinema, as the sun catches Binoche in a golden glow recalling the golden tint to La Double Vie de Véronique.
Yet this is not just Kieslowski’s show, Binoche gives a truly magnificent performance, projecting the sort of soulful face not seen the silent days. The photography of Idziak is likewise incredibly expressive (though Kieslowski deliberately used different D.P.s for each film). But the real magic touch has to be Preisner’s incredibly powerful music, a symphony in itself, searching out the darkest recesses of the soul and filling it with a refreshing blue almost spiritual light (as befits the use of St Paul’s infamous passage from Corinthians Ch13). Though the film is about the liberation of Julie, it could just as easily be the liberation of the audience and cinema itself.