‘Bleu’ and its use of the color blue | 「藍」與藍之用

Three Colours: Blue (1993), Eurimages. Directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski. Pinterest.com

Putting specific meaning on use of colour in movies or in any visual media for that matter is often an exercise in futility since it is easy to overanalyse use of colourcoding. However, that doesn’t mean that colour cannot be used with intent by artists and that is most definitely the case with this one.

This is very much the case with the French film ‘Bleu’ (1993) from the critically acclaime, Polish director Krzystof Kieslowski and the first in a trilogy of films ‘The Three Color’-trilogy, with the final two films being ‘Blanc’ (1994) and ‘Rouge’ (1994). Now ‘The Three Color’-trilogy isn’t really a trilogy in the way that for instance ‘The Lord of the Rings’ (2001-2003) or ‘Back to the Future’ (1985-1990) are considered trilogies since there is no overarching narrative to coble the three films together. Instead, the link is thematic as the three titles refer to the implied meaning of the French Flag’s three colours: blue for liberty, white for equality and red for brotherhood, with each film using these symbolic virtues as a thematic backdrop.

However, each movie does not interpret these virtues literally and chooses instead to skew them in an ironic light. ‘Blanc’ is about a Polish immigrant who does not feel at home in France, while ‘Rouge’ is about a woman who falls for an eclectic older hermit who spies on his neighbours.

‘Bleu’, the focus of this article, follows a grieving widow named Julie played by the impeccable Julitte Binoche. The movie centres around her after being the sole survivor of a car crash which kills both her husband, a famous composer, and their 5-year-old daughter. She chooses to deal with this fatal loss by basically committing social suicide; stripping herself of her belongings, destroying her husband’s work and locking herself in a spartan apartment with no other human contact than her mother.

Three Colours: Blue (1993), Eurimages.
Directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski. Indiewire.com

In other words, Julie finds her liberty by stripping herself of any earthly possession, object of affection or memory that could possibly remind her of her past. However, this attempt to isolate herself and thereby lock up her grief is foiled by friends and strangers alike, constantly forcing her to engage and sympathise with the outside world.

It is a bleak subject matter and the film does not exactly sugarcoat Julie’s mental fragility; about 10 minutes into the film she tries to commit suicide although she is unable to go through with it. The frame of her with a bottle of pills in her mouth, still bruised from the accident as she looks blankly at a shocked nurse behind a glass window, is haunting.

Yet ‘Bleu’ never indulges in its protagonist’s misery. Since the whole arc of Julie’s character is that she wards of any emotional breakdown through isolation, there is no big sobbing breakdown and no screeching violins forcing the audience to get emotionally invested. Instead, the film frames her tragedy through its use of colour.

As I have pointed out the title colour, blue, refers to liberty but as a narrative device the colour symbolises grief and the use of it is not exactly limited to the film’s title. Every frame is engulfed in a hue of blue and dark blue. From objects of significance such as the only object of affection Julie allows herself to keep – a decorative lamp and the casefile containing her husband’s unfinished composition – to the mostly clouded skylines of the film which reinforces its gloomy light palette.

Three Colours: Blue (1993), Eurimages.
Directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski. Eastman.org

Blue is also associated with Julie herself as she is always wearing a large, dark coat and is characterised by Binoche’s short, dark brown hair. Her piercing dark eyes simply emphasise her beautiful, minimalist performance. Lastly, the colour is used as a way to show Julie’s isolation, whether that is in the many scenes of her swimming at night at a local swimming pool as she tries to block out the rest of the world, or the cold, unwelcome light of her unpainted apartment.

Yet despite this stylistic use of colour, the world in which ‘Bleu’ takes place never feels stylised or ‘fake.’ A lot of that seemingly has to do with Kizlowksi’s past as a social-realistic documentarian portraying the Polish people under Communist rule, and by extension, his ability to capture real human emotion and suffering through the media of film. This is further emphasised by the director of photography, Slawomir Idziak’s choice to frame most of the scenes in close-ups of faces allowing every twitch, facial feature and change in mimic to be absorbed by the viewer.

Furthermore, while the film has a definite unreal use of the colour blue, it never uses it as a poignant contrast. There aren’t any sudden switches in colour coding like it is perhaps most famously seen in Steven Spielberg’s ‘Schindler’s List’ (1993) where a young girl’s brightly red dress clashes with the films otherwise black-and-white colour scheme.

Like so many French art house films, ‘Bleu’ could mistakenly be described as overly pretentious and solely targeted at snooty Cannes Festival-attendees, no one else. However, I would argue that the film should resonate deeply with anyone who has ever experienced loss. Its use of blue not only enriches themes of loss and grief, it also makes the film much more accessible to the average viewer as it puts these themes to the forefront through its use of colour without ever having to spell them out.

 

Three Colours: Blue (1993), Eurimages. Directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski. Pinterest.com

由於很容易就會過度使用,在電影中或任何視覺媒體中使用顏色作為主題通常都是無益又無效的行為;但這並不代表藝術家不能使用顏色,而此電影正好是箇中代表。

由波蘭導演克日什托夫·基斯洛夫斯基導演的法國電影《三色三部曲》正好是最佳例子。以《藍》(1993)為開首並期後創作《白》(1994)和《紅》(1994),《三色三部曲》的形式並不像《魔戒三部曲》(2001-2003)和《回到未來》(1985-1990)般緊密連接。《三色三部曲》的關聯僅限於法國國旗的顏色:藍色代表自由;白色代表平等和紅色代表兄弟情誼,每部電影均以以上價值觀念作為背景。

但是每部電影並沒有從字面上理解以上觀念,反而從一個頗具諷刺意味的角度切入:《白》是關於一名波蘭移民在法國並沒有歸屬感;《紅》是關於一名女子愛上了一個偷窺鄰居並年紀較大的隱士。

而《藍》的主題則是關於一名由女演員朱麗葉•畢諾許飾演名為朱莉的寡婦。朱莉是在一起嚴重車禍的意外中唯一的生還者,她失去了身為著名作曲家的丈夫和五歲的女兒。她選擇進行社交自殺作為療傷:扔掉所有物品,毀掉丈夫所有作品和將自己所在只有她和媽媽的家中。從另一個角度來說,朱莉為了換取自己的自由,棄掉了所有讓她想起過去的物質。但這孤立自己的行為並沒有太大作用,外界的朋友和陌生人都剝奪她的自由,逼得她不得不與外界接觸。

即使在形容如此淒涼的題目,電影也並沒有將朱莉心靈上的脆弱梅花一點點:電影中有10分鐘都在圍繞朱莉想自殺卻又無能為力。當電影拍著她口中的藥丸而嘴留有從意外而來的淤青時,她透過玻璃窗以空白的表情看著驚愕的護士,畫面縈繞在人腦海中久久不散。

但《藍》亦並沒有沉溺於主角的悲劇當中。朱莉的角色的骨幹主要透過孤立而分散情緒崩壞的傾向,電影當中並沒有痛哭或者小提琴歇斯底里的場景讓觀眾投入太多情感;相反的電影使用顏色框住她悲慘的遭遇。

Three Colours: Blue (1993), Eurimages.
Directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski. Indiewire.com

電影的藍雖然意指自由,但作為一個敘述媒介,藍色的意思並不僅限於此。電影中每個場景都充斥著不同程度的藍,或深或淺。從不同物件中可見一斑:例如朱莉容許自己留下的唯一一盞燈、她丈夫未完成作品的檔案夾、天空的顏色等等;藍色同時在朱莉身上出現,她總是穿著深色大衣以突顯她矮小的身材,深棕色的髮色和眼睛都強調她美麗和簡約的表現。最後藍色亦用來象徵朱莉的孤獨:不論是她晚上在游泳池游泳,還是她那未經粉飾、用以隔絕世界的並透著不歡迎任何介入的燈光的居所。

雖然電影中藍色被重用並不少場景都充滿調整,《藍》裡的世界卻不讓人感覺虛偽。這有可能是跟基斯洛夫斯基以前拍攝社會寫實紀錄片有關,他拍攝在共產黨統治下的波蘭人並透過電影這媒介述說人們真實的情感。而和他合夥的攝影師Slawomir Idziak更進一步的將演員的面部表情表達的極其仔細,讓觀眾深深受感動。

Three Colours: Blue (1993), Eurimages.
Directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski. Eastman.org

當電影用盡各種藍色之後,亦不會使用強烈的顏色對比為觀眾帶來新鮮感。《藍》並沒有像史提芬•史匹堡的電影《辛德勒的名單》(1993)中用年輕女孩的亮紅裙子對比黑白電影的調子。

就如不少的法國藝術電影,《藍》可能會被認為是過於矯飾並以坎城電影節的觀眾為目標的作品,但我卻認為電影能夠與曾經經歷過失去的觀眾引起深層共鳴。電影中的藍色不單止豐富了「失去」和「悲傷」,更能在不突兀的情況之下讓普遍觀眾透過顏色的使用理解電影的主題。

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