Sunday, June 6, 2010

Day 60: Blue Monday

At Sunday lunch today, at which the generous invitation of "guest of honour" was bestowed upon me by close friends, the assembled dinner party chewed over favourite films; not "best" not "most critically acclaimed", but "favourite".

Up there in the rarified atmosphere of those I most treasure, are Polish writer-director Krzysztof Kieslowki's Three Colours trilogy, in particular Three Colours Blue (Trois Couleurs Blue) and Three Colours Red (Trois Couleurs Rouge)....oh, okay, and Three Colours White (Trois Couleurs Blanc) They were Kieslowski's last filmic statement to the world; following the making of the third and final in the series, Rouge, Krzysztof died. Medical reasons aside, it's as though the man had said all he needed to say to the world, a kind of metaphysical explanation if you will, for Krzysztof Kieslowski was a metaphysical storyteller.

The trilogy of films was Kieslowki's latter-day response, if you will, to the three ideas or concepts behind the colours of the French flag (Le Tricolore): liberté (freedom), egalité (equality) and fraternité (brotherhood); he was living as a Polish emigré in France and set the films in Paris, Warsaw and Zurich, respectively.

Three Clours Blue begins with Julie (Juliette Binoche) recovering in hospital from a car crash that claimed the lives of her husband and young daughter. It does not require me to describe the enormity of her grief, a grief so enveloping that Julie shuts it down, in the same way that she does the family home in the countryside of Northern France, unable to face the past. Julie removes herself to the nation's capital, Paris, seeking a life of anonymity and choosing to liberate herself of the a past which is too painful to think of or consider. This is her freedom; to not grieve.

But the nature of life doesn't work that way. Her husband was a celebrated composer, in the middle of creating a grand orchestral work to celebrate the unification of Europe, meaning that his passing was never going to go unnoticed. And so, the life and deaths that Julie was trying to run from, run after her.

Julie is the protagonist, heroine or central character of this film, her life knocked out of balance from a very positive world order to one that is deeply negative, and she spends the film questing to restore that balance. How? Julie's conscious objective (what she spends her time doing) is to bring equanimity back into her life by freeing herself from all attachments that connect her to and remind her of what she has lost. If she does this successfully, then she will not have to confront and endure what she knows will be a maelstrom of grief that could engulf and consume her.

For those of us watching the film, what becomes painfully apparent is that Julie's freedom can only come if and when she turns and walks towards that grief. We know this, not because we are all great film structure buffs, but because we as human beings all experience grief, loss and pain and know that to run from it is actually imprisonment, to face it is where the liberation lies. Watching Julie's arduous journey, we know what her Unconscious Objective is: to grieve.

I must not tell you what the Climax of this film brings, you have to see it for yourself and you have to keep watching right up until the final frame to know how Julie resolves this, her dilemma of all dilemmas. Fear not, Trois Coleurs Blue is not depressing or morbid, it's the first of Kieslowski's three cinematic poems exalting the human condition.

Day #60 Tip: A Conscious and an Unconscious Objective
Ever listened to a boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife/lover has just been betrayed by their partner. Who hasn't sat and comforted the angry and tearful significant other, who, in that early rush of acrimony and rage wants to get even and bays for vengeance? I have listened and others have listened to me in that state. My experience has been that when offering an ear to the fifty ways and means to "murder" your lover(conscious rant) what I detect underneath (unconscious desire) is really, for things to be as they were before this great disturbance took place.

It is hard to broker peace when you are shouting at someone. It is impossible for Julie to meet and come to terms with grief when she is running in the opposite direction. The protagonists with the greatest struggles are those who have both a Conscious and Unconscious Objective, objectives that are in direct conflict with each other.

Call to mind Lester Burnham's journey in American Beauty. Do you think that Kevin Spacey's character really wanted to sacrifice his family for a little something with Mena Suvari's high school cheerleader, Angela Hayes? Watch it again through the prism of what I've just been talking about in terms of a character's Conscious and Unconscious Objectives. See if you can discern what his two conflicting objectives might be, because Unconscious and Conscious Objectives are always in conflict with each other, that's where a character's great Inner Conflict lies and we watch them struggle with that on the screen.


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