Ranking: #74/111

Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski (Poland)

Genre: Psychological Drama

Three Colours: Blue is an aesthetically pleasing and well-constructed drama on the theme of finding healing after the grief of severe human loss. It is the first in a trilogy by Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski, with each film being associated with one of the colours of the French flag, blue, white and red, symbolising the values of “liberty, equality and fraternity”.

Set in Paris, the story concerns Julie, wife of a well-known and loved French composer, Patrice de Courcy. Julie loses her husband and daughter when they are killed in a motor vehicle accident which she survives. The opening sequence is stunning, using lenses, camera angles and filters to convey the psychic disorientation of trauma.

The director traces the aftermath of the accident, and her slow emotional recovery, in great detail, showing the sequences of the stages of her grieving. While still recovering in a hospital, she tries unsuccessfully to overdose on some pills she steals from a hospital dispensary. When she’s released from hospital, she puts up her home for sale and goes to live on her own in an apartment in Paris. She becomes the lover of a musical collaborator of her husband’s, Olivier, but then separates herself from him as well. In her new life, the only connection to her past is a mobile made of blue beads we assume belonged to her daughter.

Blue imagery is weaved seamlessly into the narrative, a blue reflection on her face, blue wall paper, blue crystals, a blue shirt in a family photograph, a blue lollipop of her daughter, a blue ceiling, a blue pen on the desk, the scan of the baby in the womb, and so on. At first, the blue motif could be representative of loss and sadness, but its meaning evolves as Julie progresses on her inner journey.

In her disturbed state, she has even destroyed the unfinished score of the work her husband was working on at the time of his death. It’s a piece of music celebrating European unity after the end of the Cold War. Excerpts and fragments of the music, however, still live in her mind. There are blue patches of reflected light on the screen as the musical fragments play. This suggests that the blue motif could mean some sort of peace or restoration of her life, a freedom she could attain beyond the pain of her loss.

While she’s still healing, though, she receives another great shock, when she finds out that her husband had been having an affair with a younger woman, Sandrine, a lawyer. Once again, Julie has to work through a process before she can forgive Sandrine and, by implication, her husband.

As she moves towards reconciliation and recovery, her own musical talent returns to her and she and Olivier are able to complete the unfinished composition.

In the movie’s final sequence, we hear part of the newly completed music being played, with a chorus and a soprano singing a solo in Greek about Paul’s lyrical description of love in 1 Corinthians 13. And then we realise that another symbolic meaning of the blue motif is the blue of the European Union flag. Now there is unity within herself, too, as she accepts what has happened and finds the inner strength to start her life again.

From loss to peace – the long and painful process Julie undergoes is marvellously enacted and evoked within an interconnected unity, turning this powerful psychological study into cinematic art.