Following a car accident that claims the life of her husband (a well-known European composer) and their only child, Julie de Courcy (Juliette Binoche) must find ways to survive emotionally and make a new life for herself. She determinedly simplifies her life, but several complications arise.

From the beginning, she is subject to occasional mysterious blackouts following bursts of music of the sort that her husband composed. There are also her feelings for an attractive collaborator of her husband’s (Olivier, played by Benoît Régent), who is hoping to complete an important composition her husband had left unfinished. Then, half way through the film she discovers that her husband had had a mistress for several years before his death and that the mistress is now pregnant with his child. And of course there is Julie’s grief, which she is trying hard not to show, and which we sense is expressed in her coolness and detachment.

Julie finally comes through these things and emerges from her self-imposed isolation after she makes some fundamental changes in her view of what belongs to her and what belongs to her husband, his mistress, and their child. We finally discover that a hint dropped early in the film is significant, that in fact Julie is the composer of the much-praised works that had been attributed to her husband. In the end, she decides to come out as the composer by finishing the big piece, which will bring her the credit she has long deserved. Having made that decision, she feels free to welcome Olivier’s fine attentions. The house she’d lived in with her husband she gives to her husband’s mistress and her unborn child.


Blue is the first part of Kieslowski’s Three Colors trilogy, loosely associated with the three colors of the French flag and the French motto, "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity." It is a fine complex study of the decisions one woman makes in dealing with a set of griefs both simple and complex. Julie uses her post-trauma liberty in businesslike fashion, even coldly, quickly cutting all ties to her former life and taking a detached view of what happens next. She tells her mother: "I don’t want any belongings, any memories. No friends, no love. Those are all traps."

It isn’t clear whether she is referring to traps that lead to emotional wounds or, rather, traps that can keep you from seeing yourself. Maybe it’s both. In any case, for much of the film Julie is shut down emotionally, but she is curious about some particulars of her new urban world, a homeless man sleeping on the street, a bent-over old woman trying to recycle a water bottle, a female prostitute who lives nearby, and these and other people slowly draw her back into the world.

In the end, having decided to end the pretense under which she lived in her marriage, Julie’s victory is that everyone gets what they existentially deserve. Her response to her tragic losses and the events that follow have left things much clearer, if sadder. This film would make an excellent contribution to any consideration of mourning or post-trauma coping styles.


Screenplay by Krzysztof Kieslowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz. In French with subtitles available. Venice Film Festival awards for best film and best actress.

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