Trois couleurs: Bleu / Three Colors: Bleu (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1993)Adam & Matty's takes (starts at 38:01)
I'm told this trilogy is both based on the French tricolore flag and the national motto of "Liberté, Egalité Fraternité", which would make this one about liberty. I'll note that the colours of the French flag have nothing to do with any of those concepts (their meanings are actually disputed, but the majority view is that the blue and red stand for the city of Paris and the white for the Bourbon monarchy), but blue happens to be associated with the political right in most Western countries (read: every one of them except for the US), and the right/left dichotomy can be boiled down to a fight over what to prioritize between freedom/liberty* (right) and equality (left), so this all tracks. Not so much with the next two, but I guess we'll worry about that when we'll get there. I'm spending time on this because I enjoy Kieslowski's high concept approach to filmmaking: first the Decalogue, now this, and from what I understand he had a Hell/Heaven/Purgatory trilogy in the works before his untimely death. Even Véronique is an easy-to-summarize high concept: two "identical" girls leaving in different places at the same time. This could lead to gimmicky or overly didactic works, but Kieslowski knows how to approach big subjects such as killing or liberty in unexpected ways.
In this case, we get to liberty via grief, and a person (Binoche's Julie) reacting to a horrendous tragedy by attempting to free herself from it. It's the Buddhist approach: suffering comes from attachments, so to avoid suffering one should free themselves from said attachments, and achieve a state of plenitude. Except this is not really possible, or at least this is what Kieslowski argues here. We are part of this world, we have attachments, and you can't shortcut through grief. You're not free from other people (see also: Sartre), you're not free from the world: you're always brought brack by whatever those things you use to bungee-jump are called. Whether or not that's a good thing is irrelevant, really, and I like that open-ended approach from Kieslowski which I also found in the Short Movies (presumably it's also present in the rest of the Decalogue).
To get back to the actual film - as opposed to its broad themes - Kieslowski continues to be very bold stylistically, and successful. Those three cuts to black mid-conversation with the orchestra blaring are very heavy flourishes, but they work, in large part because you get Binoche at the top of her game here. I don't know how much of the film we spend just watching her face, but it certainly feels like a lot, and you can light it as blue as you want, she still needs to give you something to make it all work. I think there is a difference between this performance and Irène Jacob in Véronique, which is that Jacob is striking but too mysterious, too otherworldly for me to fully engage with her character(s). I definitely don't have that problem with Binoche, even if she's very visibly younger than her character is supposed to be. She's a treasure, and I can't explain why. She's just compelling to watch. This film could feel extremely didactic and over-the-top, and I think a big part of why it doesn't is how reined is she is. The filmmaking is bold, so she isn't, and that balance might be where the film's success resides.
I suppose I should talk about the music, since it is so central to the plot here, but I'm not sure what to say other than, like Kieslowski, Preisner is not going for subtle here. They complement each other quite well, with Kieslowski doing the Amadeus thing of scoring the sheet music (did Forman invent that ?), always effective. Adam & Matty attempted to read something political into the music being meant for a "Unification of Europe" thing, but it just sounds like a generic big event that a contemporary composer would have to be involved with to me. I guess you can see a nod to the more political approaches to the concept of liberty, but I'd say that's a stretch, it just doesn't seem to me that political theory is a big interest of Kieslowski so far... and if it is, he's burying it very deep, too deep for me on first viewing anyway. But he feels more like a instinctual filmmaker than a puzzle-maker, and I don't think this needs to be about more than what it is clearly about to be great.8/10
*which are one and the same in French. I'm a little unclear as to what the distinction is supposed to be in English actually.