Liberty Belle

“Now I have only one thing left to do: nothing. I don’t want any belongings, any memories. No friends, no love. Those are all traps.”

The French woman’s name is Julie (Juliette Binoche). She speaks these words after tragically losing her husband and daughter in a car accident. And I thought – Ah, that’s where the significance of the title lies. Death is certainly a cause for the blues. But upon more research, I find Kieslowski’s “Blue” to be part of a film trilogy, evoking the three colors of the French flag. In this instance, blue stands for liberty. Hence, the movie is so much more about Julie’s blues. It’s also about her attempt to liberate herself from just about everything.

I first encountered Kieslowski’s genius in the powerful series “Decalogue” – a must-see for a serious student of film. In “Blue,” the auteur crafts another work worthy of scrutiny. He takes the concept of liberty and gives it a fascinating twist. Suddenly, the idea of freedom, along with its clear-cut positive connotation, becomes more complex, murkier, and surprisingly more real. Kieslowski deliberately makes the issue raw and complicated. Therefore, it’s ripe enough for thoughts and discussion. Basically, Julie is an absolute representation of independence. Here’s a woman who wants to be an island; she doesn’t want to be shackled to any human connection anymore. And yet, her extreme efforts to be free ironically limit her life drastically. As the character Julie, Binoche acts with restrained intensity. She’s not a melodramatic woman who easily breaks down. She’s adamant to fight off grief and bottle up emotions. It’s a frightening character to watch and yet, I couldn’t look away because the woman is so determined (even if I’m unsure of what she’s determined to do). Is she a disaster waiting to happen or a creature about to flight? Either way, she’s gathering momentum and speeding fast.

Another way to scrutinize the film is looking at its technical achievements. Kieslowski has a brilliant sense of picture and rhythm. He experiments with images, without the convenience of CGI. In “Blue,” the color blue appears in interesting ways and in one classic shot, he captures a character through the reflection of an eye in close-up. His innovation also extends to his unique use of fade. The fade technique is usually used to end or start a scene, but here, the screen fades to black when a character pauses to reflect. I also loved the way audio is artistically edited. There’s a memorable scene where a finger would run across notes and the viewer would hear what the musician can read. Music is a big part of the film, because Julie’s husband was a composer. And of all the things Julie tries to erase, a melody stuck in your head might be the trickiest thing to purge.

The film itself is hard to forget. In fact, I found “Blue” more enjoyable to think about than to watch. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it makes the film a bit imperfect. I really wish there was more balance between Julie’s internal and external conflicts. And while the plot had some shocking twists on its own, the impact isn’t quite as powerful as I expected. Nevertheless, “Blue” is still an excellent thinking picture that’ll become even more excellent with subsequent viewings. I think my resistance to fully embracing the film has got to do my being accustomed to films that entertain, rather than enlighten. It’s obvious that “Blue” is not for those who conservatively choose their movies by genre and popularity. And because of that, I found it liberating to actually love this unique and extraordinary movie.

Grade: A

Juliette Binoche, Benoît Régent, Florence Pernel, Charlotte Véry, Emmanuelle Riva, and Yann Trégouët
Screenplay by
Krzysztof Kieslowski
Directed by
Krzysztof Kieslowski
Rated R for sexual situations, mature themes, and nudity