Three Colors: Blue & The Modern Ice Age


An icy, cobalt, and joyless warmth encases Juliette Binoche’s aching expressions in Krzysztof Kieślowski’s 1993 film, ‘Three Colors: Blue’.  It is something that supplants notions of levity and rescue. Binoche wades through the color blue with the force of a flamed out comet – pieces of her are lost along the way. Tumbling, roaring, and hissing to a complete implosion. In the film, she loses both her husband and child to a violent car crash. She, in turn, molts her personality, belongings, and memories. Her life buckles to the seafloor of a forcibly distant memory. Self-preservation through boat burning. Binoche moves like a creaking vessel from place to place, situation to situation. She is a ghost ship in someone else’s ocean.

Sławomir Idziak’s bruised cinematography sets the bleak and yet loving tone, while Kieślowski croons the volcanic undercurrents of human animus and desire. Cubes of sugar are overtaken by coffee. Swimming pools look like outer space. Spoons are funhouse mirrors. And, meanwhile, Binoche is scraping her knuckles against the proceedings.


Juliette Binoche, embracing the void

This is one of the great performances, where every fiber and emotion is left over each frame. There’s a restrained violence to the confessional output seen in ‘Three Colors: Blue’. Binoche is cold, vulnerable, powerful. She is a complete person in all of her unfocused brilliance – a constellation of honesty and cold, wet uncertainty. There becomes a point, almost immediately, when you’re no longer in a movie. This is the kind of impassioned film that should be reintroduced to all American theaters. Domestic audiences need a reminder of what it is like to not simply see a movie, but have a movie see into you. We laugh at turning the camera inward. We are in a spiritual ice age.

At some point, we are complicit in the puzzling dearth of dynamic, challenging, and revealing films that are available to us. At what point do we open ourselves up, once again, to something that feels textural and not simply accessible.

During award season, there will be films that deal in the currency of sociological struggle, operate with historical impunity, and maneuver in star power. Sure, fine. And some of them will be emotionally facetious, most decent, few great. But there always seems, modernly, to be a desperate and overt rush to get to the payoff. Here, Kieślowski and Binoche write in prose not punchlines. For a movie dealing with so many great metaphors and visual components, ‘Three Colors: Blue’ is strangely unpretentious. It feels, for all of its profound sadness, willing to exist and not boast. There can be something learned from that.


Author: Rob Patrick

The program director of the Olympia Film Society, Rob is also a former San Diego Film Critics Society member. He has written for The East County Californian, The Alpine Sun, The East County Herald, The San Diego Entertainer, and the San Diego Reader. When he isn't curating a film festival, he is drinking rosé out of a plastic cup in Seattle or getting tattoos from Jenn Champion.

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