Blog Directory CineVerse: True Blue

True Blue

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Released 30 years ago, the French drama Three Colors: Blue is the first in Krzysztof Kieślowski's Three Colors trilogy, which also includes Three Colors: White and Three Colors: Red. The movie follows the story of a woman named Julie, portrayed by Juliette Binoche, who tries to move on after losing her husband and daughter in a tragic car accident. Exploring themes of grief, loss, and emotional recovery, it has been widely praised for its exceptional direction, cinematography, and performances. Kieślowski's clever use of color symbolism is particularly admired, as is the outstanding performance by Binoche. Blue has long been regarded as a masterpiece of European cinema, and it is often hailed as one of the greatest films ever made.

To listen to a recording of our CineVerse group discussion of this film, conducted last week, click here.

In this picture, the color blue is associated with emotional, not political, liberty, freedom from memories, and autonomy for Julie to start her life over again after tragedy. Blue is also the hue of coldness and depression, as well as adult sexual themes. Additionally, it’s a visual element used to examine the theme of music and its significant emotional impact. As Julie eventually rediscovers her love for music, the color blue suggests this reawakening, along with the unfinished symphony left behind by her deceased spouse, a renowned composer. The use of blue aids in reinforcing the emotional intensity of the music in this movie and helps arouse deep emotions within the characters. The filmmakers brilliantly use this chromatic signifier—particularly azure—to express ideas, notions, and emotions via blue filters, blue lighting, and small blue objects in the world of the characters like the blue chandelier and candy wrapped in blue foil.

What motivates Julie? A desire to escape from the past and its emotional trappings of memory, which can trigger grief and pain. Julie wants to establish a new persona not colored by her past life or responsibilities. Possibly she yearns for a feminist ideal: to be free from patriarchal conventions and expectations.

Julie chooses to sleep with her husband’s composing partner and aid her husband’s mistress most likely because she wishes to escape the past, to evade the trap of feeling down about the loss of her husband. These acts perhaps enable Julie to form a new identity where, ironically, she embraces those things that would customarily “dishonor” the memory of her husband or his infidelity. Or maybe she feels like she is deserving of her loss by lying to herself that she is cold, unfaithful, and callous. Consider how a typical Hollywood film might have approached these two subplots of Julie bedding the composer and helping the mistress, and the lack of subtlety, mystery, or nuance that a lesser filmmaker would have expressed.

Blue often uses fades-to-black in the middle of scenes, as if Julie were losing consciousness briefly and then returning to the moment. Kieslowski explained these moments as such: "At a certain moment, time really does pass for Julie while at the same time, it stands still. Not only does her music come back to haunt her at a certain point, but time stands still for a moment."

At the end of the film, we see the faces of many characters as the finished symphony plays. The final shot shows Julie sitting in a concert hall, listening to the composition she helped complete with Olivier. We hear the lyrics: Though I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries, If I have not love, I am nothing.

The takeaway here is fairly clear: Julie’s life, previously an incomplete symphony with missing pages, now feels more fulfilled because she has reconnected with others and can give and receive love. Julie has had a positive impact on the lives of others after the tragedy. And she’s realized that, despite trying to deny the painful memories and associated emotions, she cannot escape them—they are part of who she is.

Three Colors: Blue teaches us that in the face of terrible tragedy can come great joy and transcendence. That we define ourselves by our relationships with others. That in the quest for true personal freedom, which can come at the expense of your identity, you are forced to create a new identity. However, the only way to be truly free is to learn from the lessons of the past and not cut yourself off from the world or your emotions, especially love. The movie also touches on the idea of individualism and how it relates to community, as Julie grapples to find her position in society and the world at large. Ultimately, the film argues that personal freedom and individuality are vital for a fulfilling life, but it must be combined with compassion and empathy toward others.

Similar works

  • Birth
  • Rabbit Hole
  • I Will Follow
  • In the Mood for Love
  • Truly Madly Deeply
  • Cries and Whispers
  • Melancholia
  • The Descendants
  • The Sweet Hereafter
  • Magnolia

Other films by Krzysztof Kieślowski

  • Dekalog (1989)
  • The Double Life of Veronique (1991)
  • White, and Red, also from the Three Colours trilogy

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