Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Bleu (in English, Blue), from the Trois Couleurs trilogy of Krzysztof Kieślowski, is all about the pain of love. In many ways, the film reminded me of the Italian masterpiece Cinema Paradiso, but both films take completely different aspects of the same theme. While Cinema Paradiso is about the pain of unrequited love, unfulfilled love, Bleu is about the pain of love that is lost, love that seems never to wash us again, love that seems to have filled up our life with its suffocating scent for ever.

This film could never have been possible, at least for me, without Juliette Binoche. The acme she has reached in this film with her acting is something to be wondered about—I have rarely seen so beautiful "underdone" acting in my life. Add to that the beauty, the kind smile, and the scornful smile, the grace, the dignity, the pain on Juliette's face, and rest is completed by a brilliant director, who knows his craft, who knows his colours, and who knows his moments of silence. The whole film is like, Julie (character played by Binoche) is looking in your eyes, she does not want to ask anything, it's just that you don't have the answers.

Silence plays an important part in Bleu. The film has sparse dialogues, and the dialogues that are there are too crude, too simplistic (especially considering that it's a French film). It's the silence or the background blurry noises that dominate the film. Even when Julie splashes around the swimming pool, the water's sound is subdued, and yet the unwelcome noises, like that of children in red dresses coming in the bustle of a new life to the pool one such evening, those noises are heightened in contrast. It's a beautiful sound editing scheme which brings out everything in the film too well.

Blue, the color of memories

It's the blue glass chandelier, it's the blue candy. Things associated with Julie's memory, the memory which she wants to rub off in her desperation to get rid of her pain, are all blue. So, even the notes of the music her husband composed are blue. But the world which jars her, or which is in her present state of mind, is sepia, is too yellow, is too much not blue. In a beautiful scene, Julie is eating in the café, the scene is in sepia, then the music comes, similar to the music her husband had composed, and when she finally turns, we are introduced to the beggar, playing against a blue bespattered wall. Sepia and blue are in a fight with each other, liberty desired and being chained to old memories. But what is liberty?

Blue, the color of liberty

Does liberty mean to be free from memories? To get rid of memories, and then to start afresh? Yes, you will be liberated definitely, but would that liberty be worth living for? Do you envy the liberty that now Julie's mother, suffering from Alzheimer, has? It's a brilliant analogy drawn by Kieślowski, and there are so many hidden layers in each of his scenes, with so much stationarity, that allows you to think all this. Julie's mother is watching a man sky-diving, just hanging by a rope tied to his legs, and spiralling downwards in the vast air. Is it Julie's mother's condition? Aimless? Bien sûr. But does it reflect more of Julie? No support in her life now, no love in her life now, anything which she has or had she has already been rejecting. Just a slender string of memories to connect her to life, to God, to people, and which she wants to cut. Yes, she would be then completely free in the air, but to crash down? Would that be liberty?

It’s this struggle that the film concerns itself with. Julie still cannot leave it all. There’s a man being beaten up in the streets below, her interest is aroused, no matter how indifferent she tries to become. When she is locked outside in the night, she is afraid. She has to take help of the prostitute downstairs when she is afraid to go back to her home for fear of the rats, the infants, that the cat might have killed. Note the color scheme that plays up on Julie’s face when she is listening to the sounds of night when the man is being beaten up outside: blue light playing on her face, behind the frames are yellow (even though it’s a night scene).

Blue, the color of desire

Dialogues are very rare between Julie and her husband’s assistant, Olivier, who always loved her silently, and now continues to does so, again silently but shrewdly and very delicately. Julie asks “Vous m’aimez?” (and the response, “Vous êtes sûr?”) while inviting him for sex, as if trying to destroy her body from the memories. But, it’s never been “tu” between them, the formal “vous” exists, and yet they silently drop their encasings in front of each other. Each knows why the other is doing it: and each does it unquestioningly, without knowing if there will be any other time. Even much later in the film, when Olivier has succeeded to some extent in being closer to Julie, the dialogue is “Vous me manquez?”

Julie herself seems so desirable when she asks with such a definitive closed fashion anything. She is so sure of herself, although she is so much at struggle inside. Her questions don’t allow anything except a “Yes” or “No”, no, not even that. Her questions only allow what she wants as a response. It’s a shock that brings you closer to her, when you see her running after Olivier’s car, to know of her husband’s mistress that she knows of only now. When Julie is locked out and she rests on the staircase, the shot is from below, from her legs upward. It’s a scene which most directors would have missed or would have overdone similar instances in the film: a scene which highlight’s Julie’s desirablity, she’s only 33, her vulnerability, and by this contrast, her strength, her resolve to fight the grief, the pain. Yes, the solution that she has got now is to run away from the grief, but she is thinking, she is fighting, and she is allowing herself to see Olivier, to see and to compose the music her husband left unfinished, to see the young man with the cross.

Blue, the color of darkness

Julie gives back the cross, it’s a simple enough scene. But is there something more to it? Is Julie also trying to reject God out from her life? This cross probably changes the young man: we’re going to see the aimless young man who we saw in the opening scenes playing with a ball, pensive with that cross in the end credits. Crosses can be passed on, a life of beauty can be passed on, isn’t it? The prostitute touches the blue chandelier in one of the most touching scenes of the movie, when Julie imperceptibly becomes a tigress, she does not want anyone to touch her memories, her one memory that she has decided to linger over. The prostitute says she had one like this in her childhood. So, what’s sacred to someone and special to someone, might be just something that “someone had also.” The blue chandelier is maybe the blue of innocence for the prostitute, now lost in the blue of the world of sold desire she “willingly” inhabits. Is that chandelier too a cross which Julie is unwittingly passing on to the prostitute. Or can that never happen? There can be no innocence now, there can only be pain. When the sick beggar has gone for some days to a hospital, he has still left his flute. Music lives, soul lives, deeds live, rest might go. The same music is invented by her husband and by the beggar. How could they have the same ideas? A connection of beauty, imagination, life that exists among people? And hence is transmissible? The film here achieves a Dostoyevskyan beauty, very hard to achieve always.

What do rats signify for Julie? She cannot yet be rid of her fears, her old fears. Try as she might, she is still the old Julie. And there’s one rat, the others are newborns. Tender life, new life, while Julie is grappling with the pain of death. Life, which is so hopeful right now, which is unknowing of what is to come, which is happy in its squeals and movements. The fadeouts: Julie is lost, disconnected, from the present, and is gone back into the world she does not want to be in anymore. But every thing reminds her of it, every thing pursues her relentlessly to not to let her forget.

Blue, the color of love

When Julie finally says “Je viens,” the demons are slayed. Memories are kept alive, but life is not led subjugated to them. No. Memories only serve to make the life more beautiful. The adjunct of pain only makes it more variegated, and makes any present happiness more blissful. One of the most beautiful end credits I’ve ever seen, all the people connected directly or indirectly in the film are shown somehow connected to that one incident: the car crash.

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