Saturday 25 October 2008

Kieslowski's Film Blue

Together with his co-writer Krzysztof Piesiewiczc, Krzysztof Kieslowski has created one of the great psychological films of modern times. It is portrait of grief. The film is about Julie (played by the brilliant Juliette Binoche) the wife of a composer in the process of writing a piece of music called "Song for the Unification of Europe." There is a car accident in which Julie's husband and seven-year-old daughter die. Julie is immobilized in grief, tries to commit suicide but cannot do it. To deal with her loss, she gives up every single piece of her former life, and tries to live purely physically: eating, sleeping, swimming ...

The film is extraordinary not only in its psychological theme, but in the way it succeeds in prompting a kind of inwardness that we expect in the best novels and short stories, but which seems to be much more difficult to accomplish in film.

Keith Oatley and Maja Djikic have written a long review of this film (click here to access it). In the review, we discuss not only the emotions that we experience as viewers, but the film's distinctive language and tropes that make them possible. Many of the modes of this film are familiar in literary theory. One is metaphor. A recurring metaphor in the film is the surface of a swimming pool as the border between life above and death beneath, of consciousness above and the unconscious below. A second mode is metonymy: close-ups of Julie's expressionless face—a part for the whole of her being—with cuts to what she is looking at. Then there is the use of a very accomplished music line (composed by Zbigniew Preisner) to represent and prompt in the audience a sequence of emotions in counterpoint with the plot-line of events and conversation. Then there is a theme of the gradual internalization of others, who come to exist for Julie as integral parts of her mind despite her attempts to exclude other people. These internalizations are depicted by filmic memory images.

This is a film of transformation, in which despite Julie's best efforts to live only a physical life, chance encounters start to bring people into her internal world. It is a film that moves us, extends us, transforms us.


Anonymous said...

And how about another film by Kieslowski, the older one – “The Double Life of Veronique”?
Kieslowski created two heroines – Weronika and Veronique. They were born on the same day and at the same hour but in different places – Weronika in Poland and Veronique in France. They are identical, they have the same interests. They don’t know each other but deeply inside they both have a strange feeling there is someone in the world who is close to them. They both feel some kind of connection.
I don’t want to reveal what happens but it is Veronique that we get to know better. She undergoes a transformation and we accompany her in this process. She has got an inner feeling that tells her what to do. It is incredible and difficult to understand even to herself. Her transformation is not like a storm. It is delicate and beautiful. But at the same time it is painful. She gets to know herself – and it is never easy.
Watching this film you cannot be simply an onlooker. You participate in it and it is so … real – each emotion, each smile, each tear.

Keith Oatley said...

Thank you very much, Agnieszka, for this comment. I have not seen "The double life of Veronique," but it sounds very interesting. Among the issues we are concerned with are psychological transformations, not just as portrayed in the arts, but as accomplished by the arts. From your account, this film is both a portrait of transformaton in a movie character, and a prompting to transformation in the film-watcher. On your recommendation I shall certainly, now, see it.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...