During Julie’s journey from life to death and back to life again, everything in the world seems to be calling out to her, reaching for her in her self-imposed grave, to pull her back toward life, love, and goodness. Of course, the most obvious example of this is the music that breaks into her world all the time, the music that she desperately wants to forget but cannot. But it goes beyond that: chance meetings with strangers and people from the past, a puff of wind blowing her door shut, and a glimpse of herself on the television. Julie is trying to forget, to become like her ailing mother, removed from any reality, any pain, any tears. Everyday is a new day for her mother. For Julie though, in spite of her best efforts, she is painfully aware of the same thing, day in, day out.But it is in this very awareness, in the midst of her pain and suffering that she ultimately finds a kind of grace, resulting in life. Kieslowski’s world is a complicated place, filled with suffering, yet at the same time calling Julie toward new life. Thus, there is this struggle between pushing away and pulling back in. She loves me, she loves me not, indeed. This is both the way of Kieslowski’s world, yet it is also illustrative of Julie’s interaction with her past and those around her – pushing away from her former life, but never for a second being able to resist the urge to reach out for it, to stop the music in her head, to destroy those final mementos of that former life.
What’s interesting about Julie’s choices in the aftermath of the accident is the way in which she ends up cut off from everything and everyone. Even in her extreme moments (most notably the night spent with Olivier), she remains aloof. Her existence after that is very much like a hermit. She speaks as little as possible, goes out rarely, isolates herself from everyone, and descends almost into a kind of nothingness – an attempt to escape memory and thought. It is in her decision (or maybe that’s too active; let’s say experience) of living in this void that she hears and is ultimately able to receive grace.
I cannot help but wonder then, amidst all the noise of normal life, if Julie would even be able to hear the music blasting into her world as she does in the film. Would her surprising encounters with the boy, Olivier, and Lucille have had the kind of impact they did if she had been surrounded by the noise of life? What if she had not been paralyzed by fear of the rat and its babies for days – a fear that eventually pushed her out beyond herself, taking uncertain steps outside her world? What do these questions reveal about her mother, constantly in front of the television, supposedly connected to the world, yet with no idea she’s speaking to her own daughter?
Could it be that Kieslowski is suggesting, with his typical light touch, that Julie’s retreat from the world of the living was somehow necessary to allow the power of grace to pull her back toward life? Had she not done that, instead filling her life with everyday noise and responsibility, what would have become of her? Might she have become her mother, alive, but not really living? It seems that in the end, Kieslowski recognizes the tragedy of suffering, but also its converse: that same suffering works in its own way to bring life. Maybe one will find regret or sadness there. But having walked through such a valley, one also finds a rich and deep appreciation for this life, a belief that things can get better, and a comfort that the world works in such marvelous, life-giving ways.
4 thoughts on “Blue (1993)”
Great write-up as usual, John. I like your points about the necessity of retreat. I’m curious, did you see the region 1 Miramax version or the region 2 European version? Miramax chose not to subtitle the Greek lyric at the end of the film, which is the famous passage on love from the New Testament (1 Corinthians). I don’t suppose it’s necessary to intuit Kieslowski’s powerful imagery, but it irks me as one more example of MiramAxe’s meddlesome ways.
Unfortunately, I have the region 1, Doug. If only I had an all-region player when I bought the set a few years ago! I knew about the Corinthians passage, though and it is terribly disappointing the text isn’t included. That annoys me in any film that has non-English lyrics to songs and doesn’t include subtitles. Happily, in watching Koreeda’s Nobody Knows this weekend, the DVD subtitles the lyrics to a song near the end of the film, so at least some people get it.
John… I am not a film buff. But if I read any more of your reviews, I just might become one. I am on the hunt for “Blue”…
My question to you is this:
What are you going to do with this gift of observation, analysis and writing that God has given you?
Or as they say around the water cooler: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Thanks for the kind words Sarah. I have no long term vision about writing, per se. At this point, it’s mostly a hobby, and the blog gives me a chance to be proactive in responding to certain films I see.