Three Colors: Blue

After waking up in a hospital following a car crash, Julie (Juliette Binoche) learns the terrible news: Her husband and young daughter have both been killed. He, a composer, had been working on a piece that would have been throughout Europe, something that will never be finished now. Upon finding herself once again able to walk, Julie heads to the medicine cabinet and attempts to swallow as many awkward-looking pills as possible, hoping that they’ll end her life. You don’t go through with it with those kinds of monstrosities, and Julie is forced back to her room. She won’t attempt suicide again. This is how Three Colors: Blue begins.

Eventually, she manages to recover enough to be released from the hospital that was holding her hostage. Or at least, it seemed that way to her. She had to watch the funeral on television. She could barely move. But now she’s free, and is going to move on with her life. The old Julie died, and the new Julie is going to work on self-improvement, get a new career, begin anew. At least, that’s what you hope she’ll do. Instead, she begins burning (both literally and figuratively) everything that reminds her of her past. Friendships ended, all of her and her husband’s work is gone, her mother is put into a day home, she moves to a new apartment without telling a soul, and effectively destroys everything she once loved.

And for what? She’s hurt, we get that, but what does she hope to accomplish by doing this? She becomes a reclusive person, not making any friends — nor hoping to — living alone, ignoring everyone she meets, and living a pretty sad life. She doesn’t cry, though; her emotions have been repressed. This is what she’s decided. She makes, perhaps, a friend, named Lucille (Charlotte Véry), an exotic dancer. But there’s little joy in this relationship, with the two characters coming to each other for comfort, nothing else.

Also there for consolation is one of Julie’s husband’s friends, another composer named Olivier (Benoît Régent). They spend one night together soon after Julie returns home, as she knows that Olivier loved her. But after that night, she tells him that he’ll forget her and that she’s just like any other woman. She even gets cavities, we’re told. And it’s after this point where he begins a search for her as, like I said, she’s effectively disappeared.

What follows isn’t all that complex, and yet it’s beautiful. You don’t go into this film expecting a complicated plot. There really isn’t much of a plot at all, really. “Woman tries to find her new place in the world while removing memories of her past” just about sums it up. It unfolds elegantly, and I can’t remember a moment when I was bored. The main character is so complex that it’s hard not to want to just watch her go about her daily life. And if that’s not enough for you, the imagery, symbolism, odd shot choices and other techniques used by director Krzysztof Kieslowski surely will be.

There’s a lot to look at with this film, and there’s a lot to follow even if you’re not paying attention to the plot. It would take multiple viewings to pick out most of the imagery used in Blue, and even then, you’re unlikely to get everything. I can see how that would frustrate more impatient viewers as they won’t get much out of the movie, but for those willing to give it the time and commitment, it’ll be very rewarding.

While watching the narrative, you’ll notice some key things. The main character, Julie, will frequently stare off into space, just like the camera will sometimes give us a close-up of something as mundane as a sugar cube. We’ll also experience blackouts before Julie makes a major — or sometimes minor — decision. The musical score appears to be not just played for the audience, but is also inside Julie’s head, playing randomly whenever the dialogue dies down or Julie spends time alone. She notices it and reacts to it, sometimes, and it usually follows and is followed by one of those blackouts.

The only real problem I had with the film was its ending, which went against the main theme that it seemed to be going for. Obviously, I won’t give away the ending, but everything about it screams “hypocrite.” Or maybe just “make up your mind.” But, effectively, it doesn’t match up with the rest of the film. It needed to be left more wide open, I thought, in order to bring proper closure to what we just sat through. The way it ended simply didn’t quite gel with everything else.

The actors in Blue are good, but unremarkable. Juliette Binoche carries the brunt of the weight, and while she’s good, the role didn’t appear to be much of a stretch. The supporting actors aren’t given much to really work with, and calling their characters developed would be a bit of an overstatement. This is a one-person show — as it really should be — and the supporting actors, while fine, don’t get to shine as a result.

Three Colors: Blue is a great film about a woman who needs to overcome her grief and realize what life is all about. While it doesn’t contain an engaging plot, its lead character is one that is so interesting that a complex plot might take away from her story. We care about her, and the film focuses on that as a result. The only problem comes from the ending, which didn’t quite fit in tone with the rest of the film.

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