Here is a film that is unique; a film in which beauty bleeds from every frame. A film in which you get involved. A film in which you care for the characters. It is a true film, that has a lot to say, and is relentless in its splendour. This is a film that dares to go to places others wouldn’t dream of. It captured my imagination for the one-and-a-half glorious hours I sat and watched it for, and made me miss it once it was over. It creates an entire universe, a truly glorious universe, in which sad and wonderful things happen, and you feel like you are enriched for having visited it.
It tells the story of Julie, a woman who has lost her husband and young daughter in a car crash, and her attempts to sever her ties with the life she once shared with them.
You would be forgiven for thinking that this is depressing, middle of the road, weepy fodder that has nothing of note to say on a fairly clichÃ©d storyline. Instead, there are things at work in this film that draw you in. For example, the non-conformist story-line that eschews the normal tropes and instead opts to show a character who won’t let us see a thing of what she thinks.
It makes some truly incredible use of camera angles and shot composition, and this is a major contributing factor to the film’s overriding beauty. The score, by Zbigniew Preisner, is masterful, a piece of truly breathtaking music that makes the film a treat to listen to as well as a treat to watch. Imagery as well is a major part, and Kieslowski is unparalleled in the way he makes the story say things about itself.
It’s the little details that really make this film, however. These are the moments in which the greatness of this film is really, really highlighted. For example, there is a moment in this film in which Julie is required to kill some mice that are eating boxes in her flat and keeping her awake at night. She buys a small cat, puts it in the room, and you can see the guilt on her face, as she is torn between what she wants for the mice, and what she wants for her.
It is a truly memorable scene, one in which you find your heart soaring, and one in which your appreciation for the film skyrockets: a normal director would have cut it, probably because it isn’t very nice. I get the impression it was kept in for symbolic reasons (just as God came and took her family, she has had to play God and kill this family of mice). There are several other moments like this, moments in which you have to sit back and admire, enjoy, relish the attention to detail, the care, that has gone into this film.
Juliette Binoche is enigmatic in this film, with her blue outlook reflecting the colour scheme and lighting. She is given too much back-story to be described as existential, yet she never lets us know what’s going on in that head of hers, and she only really shows the grief you would expect in one scene.
It appears that she is intent on burning her bridges and trying to move on: of course, events conspire to make this very hard indeed, and there are some who would claim that the ending was happy, some who would call it sad. Yet as the score starts up, and the credits begin to role, there is no doubting that what you have just seen is a piece of cinematic mastery, by someone who knows how important it is to fill his films with symbolism and philosophical posers. An aesthetic and thematic masterpiece that ranks very highly on my best-of list.
â€¢ Here’s the trailer (in French) for you to enjoy: