Monday, November 21, 2011
I realise I do go on about my favourite director, Krzysztof Kieslowski, quite a bit. But yesterday, when I was re-watching Trois Couleurs: Bleu, it occurred to me that I've never actually reviewed it, which is odd. I think there are certain films that you just love so much, and have so much to say about, that it seems impossible to explain your fervour. Something sort of clicked in my brain yesterday, which I have to attempt to put into words.
If you're unfamiliar with Kieslowski's Three Colours Trilogy, Trois Couleurs: Bleu explores the concept of freedom, following the symbolism of the colour blue borrowed from the French flag, which represents Liberté. One of Kieslowski's gifts as a director is his ability to personalise and individualise political, collective and national concepts. In Bleu, freedom is explored through the narrative of a woman who loses her family. Julie, the wife of a French composer, is involved in a tragic car accident that kills her husband and daughter. After unsuccessfully trying to commit suicide, she decides that the only way she can cope with life is by attaining "freedom". She cuts herself off from all the people and places she has known, and seeks to become free of emotional and personal ties.
Julie's problem is that she fashions freedom as a loss. While this is governed by her grief, Kieslowski demonstrates that such an insular concept of freedom is ultimately unattainable and unrealistic. Life connects you with the people around you, whether you like it or not. Friends, family, lovers all creep under your skin, forming your sense of self. Julie cannot escape attachment to people, no matter how hard she tries. Rather, what she learns by the end of the film is that freedom is actually about being tied, wholeheartedly and sincerely, to people.
As I was thinking about this yesterday, Miranda July came into my head. Or, more precisely, the criticism which is heaped upon her. I know a lot of people find her unbearably pretentious, representing a type of boho preciousness. I obviously don't feel that way myself, and I'm quite baffled by the level of vitriolic hate she seems to attract. To me, July's work represents a search for connection and an authentic sincerity that I know makes a lot of people uncomfortable. It's this same sincerity that I think is at the heart of Bleu. In fact, I think these words about July seem to sum up what Kieslowski attempts to do in Bleu:
It’s odd that she has come to represent, for some, a kind of soulless hipster cool, because in July’s work, nobody is cool. There’s no irony to it, no insider wink. Her characters are ordinary people whose lives don’t normally invite investigation. So her project is the opposite of hipster exclusion: her work is desperate to bring people together, forcing them into a kind of fellow feeling. She’s unrelentingly sincere, and maybe that sincerity makes her difficult to bear. It also might make her culturally essential. (Quote from The New York Times profile.)
I have to agree. It is almost unbearable to be confronted with such a sincerity, with such an absolute probing of how and why we connect with other fellow beings. It's much easier to retreat into Julie's self-contained blue washes of cool cynicism. But Kieslowski shows us that such a "coolness" is brittle, and ultimately collapses under the weight of our needs as human beings. The true beauty of Kieslowski's films is their kindness.