The first of Krzysztof Kieslowski's intertwined trilogy examining modern French society (well, modern French society of the 1990s) begins with Julie Vignon (Juliette Binoche), the sole survivor of a car crash that claims her son and husband, trying to put her life back together and not sure if she even wants to.
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The Decalogue gets most of the--admittedly well deserved--praise, but a strong case can be made that the "Trois couleurs" series is Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski's masterpiece. Several years before "The Lord of the Rings" was a gleam in Peter Jackson's eye, Kieslowski filmed his own interconnected trilogy all in one go (albeit without any action scenes or complicated visual effects) examining French life through the lens of the French motto--Liberté, Equalité, Fraternité--starting with the many facets of Liberty, even its most dark and unexpected areas.
Patrice de Courcy is the most famous composer in all of France, hard at work on his magnum opus when his life, and his child's, are cut short in a car accident that leaves only one survivor; his wife Julie. In the face of being freed of everything she ever had, Julie begins to systematically cut herself out of life, but soon finds that life won't let go of her quite so easily.
All of the "Trois couleurs" films are about the connections between human beings, but while "Blanc" and "Rouge" offer comedy and a degree of heartwarming-ness, "Bleu" is probably the most difficult to connect to as it deals with a great deal of isolation initially. It never descends to angst, though, thanks to the strength of Binoche's performance and Kiesklowski's steady eye, and if you can get through the difficulties of the early going it offers probably the greatest depths. Julie is given absolute liberty, the kind that she never asked for and most people would never want: liberty from love and life and human connections. It sounds like it could be the worst kind of drudgery; stuff like this has been in lot of other director's hands. One of the joys of Kieslowski's work, and especially "Trois couleurs" is that it never lets anyone off that easy. Not it's characters and not its audience.
Kieslowski's characters are continuously evolving, never locked into the formalistic structure of foreshadow and payoff. That sort of thing can, of course, pay off very well in a good tragedy where the joy is often knowing what's coming and watching helpless as the characters refuse to avoid it. "Bleu" is something of an anti-tragedy though, and like the rest of his films the characters and their choices always keep you, and themselves, guessing. They've been blessed with the curse of free will.
That doesn't mean plot twists, although there are plenty of those. After systematically erasing all the connections to her previous life, Julie moves into a small apartment in Paris to presumably just kill time until she dies, but despite her own wishes soon gets drawn into the lives of the people around her. She can't help herself, because no one can. And as she slowly frees herself of her melancholy, she finds that her own hasn't past left her as thoroughly as she had thought. To say any more would ruin the final third, where "Bleu" really comes into its own, but the real joys of the film are the decisions the characters make and how they interact with each other. It never goes where you think it will, and after many, many centuries of storytelling that really is saying something.
Despite being, nominally, about French life, "Bleu" and all the "Trois couleurs" films embrace universality in the way people--maybe don't actually interact with each other, but the way they could. The way we wish they would. And in the fact that people might, even if it is only in a story, is the most surprising thing of all.