I watched this film on the top berth in a train traveling from Ahmedabad to Delhi. What struck me was the conscious depth of image and sound. Then again, I guess that’s present in any well thought film. But let me tell you how these elements were used here, specifically.
Blue(1993) by Krzysztof Kieslowski is a part of the 3 Colour Trilogy (of Blue, White and Red). Based on the french tricolours, each film represents a national principle of France- liberty, fraternity and equality, respectively. Blue, it self is often celebrated as a stand alone for its artistic and emotional value. In this post, I’m going to be doing the same.
The film is about Julie, who loses her daughter and famous composer husband in a car crash in the preface. Grieving, she wants wants nothing to do with the past or the future. She wants nothing, the stagnation of a living death. The film deals with overarching themes of Societal Reactions, Infidelity and Strained Parental Relationships. These are well juxtaposed within the film. Most strikingly for me was the juxtapositon of infidelity and blame. A neighbour comes to Julie asking her to sign a petition to kick another woman out of the building, calling her a whore. Although not put to words, the former’s husband has slept with the latter. Not only is the woman not accepting of this affair, she also blames the other woman for it. In contrast, when Julie finds out that her husband had had an affair, she not only wanted to meet the woman but also gave Patrice’s property to her and her unborn child. This shows a solidarity in women – but these are things that may require another post to talk about.
But for now,
Use of Virtual Images and Glass Surfaces:
The film is scattered with the use of reflective surfaces, screens and windows . One can toy around with the fact that virtual Images are formed when the rays of light don’t actually meet while the shots of real images through glass represent a containment of reality.
Why would Kieslowski choose to give us a close up of an eye instead of a first-person camera shot? It is said that the only reason we empathize with some one is because we imagine ourselves being in the same situation. The first-person shot backs this sort of solipsism. Instead, here we retain our position as a third person, but still do see what the viewer is visually experiencing as well as the humane fluttering vulnerability.
There are shots, one at the beginning and one at the end that show the eye of the beholder as the window to the world. The first time we see a reflection in Julie’s eye of the doctor and the second time, we see Julie through the eyes of Olivier.
I found this shot especially interesting because it struck me as an anti-male gaze. John Berger defines being naked as being for one self, and being a nude as being art, for an observer. The nude is positioned for the visual pleasure of the spectator. It is he who possesses the art piece and the nude. The nude woman exists solely for him. Here however, we see a man looking at a woman who is not thinking about him looking at her, but a woman, turned away thinking about another man [and child].
I was actually amused to see Patrice’s character being mentioned in the credits because throughout the course of the film one only knows him through the photographs taken of him and a single shot of hims backside before the car accident. Patrice, Julies husband and world famous composer is only depicted through the lens. Even his and his daughter’s funeral is shown to us and to Julie through a video recording. For the world to see, it is his funeral first and his daughter is just a side note. The eulogy makes him sound more like a piece of celebrated art than a human being who has just lost his life. Given this, it is appropriate for his appearance in the film to be made through a medium, life documented and recorded, through a mechanical eye.
I absolutely love this shot of Julie’s mother. It is disorienting as it pans from the mothers reflection in the television screen, to the mirror to the mother herself. The mother has alzimers and not equipped to be able to be there for Julie in her time of need. She keeps calling Julie by her sisters name and is living in the past. In a way she is in a state that Julie is trying to achieve. The mother is always seen in front of a television screen that shows the repeated clip of an old man bungee jumping. This shot beautifully shows how mentally, she has turned away from her present reality (of the live input-output of the mirror) and is stuck the repetitive recording of her past memories.
There is a second in which Julies reflection is seen in a glass window before she breaks it, echoing what she feels inside.
Glass is also used as a buffer between the camera and the characters. For one, Julie sees her mother from outside her house, showing a disconnect between the two.
Another occasion is when Julie and Oliver are having sex. Julie’s face presses against the glass. This in a sense shows confinement but also an acceptance of it.
The colour blue and music connect Julie to her past and bring ghosts of memory alive. The first instance this is made clear in when she is still in the hospital. She wakes up suddenly with music playing and the screen fading to blue. She is looking directly at the camera. The camera movement, the fading in and out of the colour and the music are all in sync.
The Penetrating Dimension of Music:
Music is a connection that Julie and her husband had shared and something that she now wants nothing to do with
Music takes over the visual senses in the film quite literally as the screen blacks out with the music still playing and the screen fads into the same scene.
Blue seems to be her daughters favourite colour as her hand is seen holding a blue wrapper out of the car during the montage in the preface. The colour keeps coming back to Julie through objects like the blue gem hanging, spaces like the blue room and the swimming pool and reflections of blue light that flash over her face.
The blue gem hanging was the only piece of her daughters belongings that she keeps with her as she moves into her new life. She had gotten the blue room, that is suggested to be her daughters completely emptied before she returned.
For me, the two most interesting uses of blue are when she devours it and when it devours her.
Julie found another blue lollipop wrapper in her purse. In a rather haunting fashion, instead of preserving it or even throwing it away she unwraps it and violently devours it. She consumes her daughters memory, and in a way bottles it up inside her.
There are a few scenes of Julie swimming in a public pool at night. The blueness of the pool is intensified by the darkness around it. Very literally, Julie dives into her memories and comes out gasping on the other side.
The last time we see the pool scene is when a swarm of little girls come jump into it, emotionally affecting Julie.