First released in 1993 this is a good time to revisit Krzysztof Kieślowski’s European masterpiece after so many years. Three Colours: Blue was the first of the Polish director’s Three Colours trilogy themed on the French Revolutionary ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity using the blue, white and red of the French tricolour to name each film in the series. So Three Colours: Blue is about liberty, that’s emotional liberty rather than a political ideology.
When her husband, a famous composer and daughter are killed in a car accident Julie (played by Juliette Binoche in one of her most stunning performances) cuts herself off from, family, friends and everything from her former life to hide away from the world. Instead of a remote rural location she chooses a small attic apartment on the Rue Mouffetard, the long narrow, bistro-packed, medieval street at the heart of the Latin Quarter in Paris. She hides away in the ancient heart of the European capital and watches the world reflected in her café coffee spoon.
The Three Colours trilogy is a timely and poignant critique of the insular Brexit mentality
Kieślowski’s camera lingers long on the light reflecting on Julie’s face, and on the play of light of a coffee cup. He captures the tonal and enduring beauty of Paris and the sadness of Julie’s self-imposed isolation. Even her mother in a nursing home suffering from Alzheimer’s has forgotten her.
‘No friends, no love. These are all traps,’ is how Julie feels about the world and her life. But her old life has a way of dragging her back. Back to the role she played in her dead husband’s work and important compositions. Back to the people and friendships she has abandoned. Having gone away and left everything, she eventually and voluntarily chooses to return.
Music plays an important part in that return. Her husband had been working on a great composition – a piece celebrating European unity following the end of the Cold War, a musical celebration of the Unity of Europe.
‘If I have not love I am nothing,’ forms part of the music’s chorus, with obvious resonance for Julie’s own life as well as alluding to the emotional draw of a United Europe.
I can only imagine what Kieślowski, who died in 1995 not long after completing the trilogy, would have made of Brexit and the current threat to a United Europe. As a Polish director who chose Paris as his European home, he would have had a quite lot to say. The Three Colours trilogy is a timely and poignant critique of the insular Brexit mentality.