Wednesday, August 08, 2007

42. Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieslowski's "Trzy kolory: niebiesky" (Three colors: Blue/Trois couleurs: Bleu) (1993): Not merely an essay on grief

A film on I Corinthians Chapter 13, just as Kieslowski's Dekalog was based on The Ten Commandments of the Old Testament! The later works of Kieslowski never cease to amaze me. Here is a film that made me read more (this time, the Bible!) after seeing the film. A choral rendering of the chapter in Bible towards the end of the film and its link to the films entire musical score--provide the clue.

Here is a film so spiritual in content with no obvious markings of being a cinematic essay based on an entire abstract chapter in the New Testament—-a chapter that could fit into the holy books of any religion and is not strictly limited to Christian theology but universal philosophy that could find equal acceptance by, say, a Sufi scholar or a Hindu mystic.

But then Kieslowski made 10 marvelous short films called Dekalog each loosely based on one of the Ten Commandments. But if the viewer is not well versed with theology or philosophy, the film can be viewed as a story far removed from such lofty heights. Blue would be a mere story of grief and reconciliation to loss of kin (but then Ingmar Bergman did a better job of this subject in the little known 1971 film The Touch (Beroringen) with Bibi Andersson and Elliot Gould).

Kieslowski, was a product of Communist Poland but a Christian in spirit and upbringing. He is reputed to have professed atheism but his later works negate this. It is possible that his collaborator on the screenplay Krzysztof Piesiewicz was more religious than Kieslowski. Both of them knew that all of us had to make difficult moral choices in life constantly, more so in a once Communist environment. Interestingly, Ingmar Bergman made another film taking a leaf from the very same Biblical chapter—Through a glass darkly. In Blue, the moral choice the lead character makes is to love. Love whom, one may ask? Love the boy who makes a great effort to return the stolen necklace with a cross, the husband who cheated on her marriage, the mistress of her husband with his unborn son in her womb, the husband's colleague who seeks fame from adding final touches to another person's unfinished masterpiece, the unfinished musical work that needs a loving inspired end, love the neighbor who is a prostitute, the servants of the house, the mother in the old age home (most of the images are reinforced towards the end of the film, as excerpts from the Biblical chapter are sung). Ms. Binoche was able to allude to a faint smile at the last frame, the actor's contribution to the film after her understanding of the end of Anton Chekov's play The seagull. Kieslowski retained the contribution of the literate and sensitive actor.

Blue--one of the three colors of the French flag. It is the color that defines melancholy in the English language. Blue is the "untrue" reflective color of water in a swimming pool—a cathartic venue where the lead actor swims to rid her fear of rats, a venue that suggests purging of her past fears and marital shackles, a venue where she curls up like fetus in a womb to be reborn.

There were unresolved passages in the film—-the despondent face of the daughter staring out of the car, the lead actor's obsessive interest in her dead husband rather than the loss of the daughter and why the mattress was the only furniture left behind in an otherwise empty house. Wish Kieslowski was alive today to explain these loose ends! The film is a superb example of sound editing, music composition and camera-work—each technical department competing for top honors. Blue was made for Venice Festival just as White was made for Berlin and Red for Cannes—the three top film festivals. Venice Festival loves such subjects as Blue presented—Blue was designed for it, each shot from the dunking of the sugar cube to epiphany of the street flute player to the laceration of the hand (spiritual reference to shedding of blood?) on the stones in self mortification.

In the final evaluation it is product of teamwork—making a swansong triptych of a talented director who probably knew his time in this world was limited. If I had not seen Bergman's works mentioned earlier, I would have voted this film as the best of the trilogy. My vote therefore is for the later work White, as it is more original in style and more complex of the two. Yet each of the "three colors" is a work of a master of cinema. I consider it a privilege to have met Kiesolowski briefly and talked to him, through an interpreter, in 1982 in Bangalore, India, much before he had bloomed into a great filmmaker in the early Nineties. At that time he had only made Camera Buff with Jerzy Stuhr—a film that impressed me but clearly lacked the maturity of his later works. Poland should to be proud of its great son.

P.S. Three Colors: White and two episodes of Dekalog (5 and 7) have been discussed earlier on this blog.

1 comment :

Reel Fanatic said...

Great review ... Bleu is indeed a much more profound treatise on grief than you get in just about any other movie that comes to my mind .. I have to say, of the three, White would be my favorite, but they are all three outstanding movies