Starring: Juliette Binoche, Benoit Regent, Charlotte Very
Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski
Running Time: 98 mins
Three Colors: Blue (Trois couleurs: Bleu) is a French film and the first in the Three Colors trilogy. Following the death of her husband and daughter in a car accident, a woman attempts to live alone, but struggles to avoid relations with those around her.
This is a really unorthodox film, in all manners of speaking. On the one hand, its abstract tone means it doesn’t ever feel like a normal, mainstream drama, but on the other hand, its narrative simplicity doesn’t put it deep into the territory of arthouse cinema. For me, it lands just slightly on the more arty side, and although it’s not always the most intensely riveting watch, Three Colours: Blue’s direction and central performance do make it at times amazingly eye-catching.
This is the first in the Kieslowski’s trilogy, and as the name suggests, it’s a very blue film. The most prevalent emotion is one of sadness and frustration as this woman tries everything possible to just be alone, but keeps getting pulled back time and again into other people’s lives, and although the film can at times be a little overly morose, and yet not have the same emotional payoff, it is generally a very unnerving and saddening story to watch.
Meanwhile, this is also a very blue film when it comes to the visuals. Many scenes are completely dressed in blue to mirror our main character’s more intense emotions at times, whilst various other blue items remain prominent on screen to maintain that visual continuity. In general, it is an effective use of lighting and cinematography to enhance the emotion and grief, but once again, it sometimes feels a little bit too much like style over substance, as Kieslowski uses more and more abstract ways to get his point across, and it didn’t always work out for me.
In the end, the film is all about the conflict between one’s desire to be completely free of all frustrations and burdens and the impossibility of living in a modern world in that way. The Three Colours trilogy is based on the French motto: ‘Liberté, égalité, fraternité’, and this first edition speaks of emotional freedom for the main character. It’s a brilliantly intelligent concept, and, thanks to Juliette Binoche’s excellent performance, the frustration of the protagonist for lacking emotional freedom is always clear, and ultimately, that’s the most effective and powerful part of the whole film.
Overall, Three Colours: Blue is an interesting and emotionally unsettling film, with a strong performance and clever direction, but there are many moments where I wasn’t hit by the emotional power that Kieslowski was going for, and that’s why it gets a 7.4 from me.