How Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Blue Follows the Hollywood Screenplay Template

 
 
Pages 1-11: Establish who and what the story is about, and suggest tone, place, and time. Subtly, or maybe not so subtly, give a clue to the basic issue to be dramatized in the story.
            Blue opens with its title card and swelling music. The next shot shows a tire, from behind, rolling on the pavement. We see three people driving in the car: Julie, Patrice, and Anna.  Anna holds a sucker wrapper out the car window and watches it dance in the wind. The family stops so Anna can use the bathroom. As the car stops we see that the break line is leaking. Between the shot of the tire and the leaking break fluid, it is foreshadowed that this car ride is not going to end well.
            At the side of the road there is a young man, Antoine. He is concentrating on a game, trying to get a ball with a hole in it to go on the stick that is attached to it. After several unsuccessful attempts, he gets it, smiles, hears the crash and runs over. The car has hit a tree and is totaled.  A deer runs from the scene and a beach ball rolls from the car.
            In the next scene we see the doctor reflected in Julie’s eye. He informs her that both her husband and child are dead. In the next scene, Julie, who is severely beaten up herself, breaks a window in the hospital hallway. As the nurse goes to check on the window, Julie goes behind the counter and stuffs her mouth with pills, in an attempt to end her life. She can’t do it and she spits the pills back into her hand and apologizes to the nurse.
            Olivier, Patrice’s partner, comes to the hospital and leaves Julie a television so she can watch her family’s funeral. It is revealed that Patrice was a world-famous composer who was working on the concert for the Unification of Europe. This is also the first glimpse we get of Julie’s mother at the funeral. Julie watches the funeral from her hospital bed.

            The first ten pages set up a lot. All but two of the key characters are introduced: Julie, Olivier, Antoine, and Julie’s mother. Though we do not know at the point that the old woman is Julie’s mother, we will realize it later in the film. Aside from characters, the basic plot is defined here, too. We are presented with a woman who has lost everything; she wants to die, but it is not in her to kill herself. What will she do? How can she live like that? How could anyone go on living after facing such loss? The whole film deals with the theme of liberty, but not in the way we would commonly think of liberty. It deals with liberty on a personal level. One is not liberated when they commit themselves to love or mourning and Julie is forced to come terms with this after the death of her family. Notice how Julie looks very sad, but she has not cried.

            Tone and motifs are also set up within the first few pages. After the car crash we know that this movie will not be an easy or happy watch. This is a movie about life and death and it doesn’t take either lightly. The color blue is used extensively throughout the movie. In the first few pages we see blue in the sky, the car they are driving, and on the wrapper Anna hangs out the window. It is also established that music played a huge role to Julie’s family. This is important because music plays a big role in the film. We also gather that his film takes place in present day France.

            Pages 11-28: Set up conflicts for the characters in the plot and subplot.
            The next scene opens with a bright blue screen. We see Julie sitting on a porch. A reporter comes to ask Julie some questions. Julie refuses and the reporter asks her if it was true that she wrote her husband’s music. Julie doesn’t respond and walks into the house. The reporter comments that she had changed; she never used to be rude. Here, we get a glimpse of what Julie is becoming and how her old self differs from her new self. She used to be nice and now she’s not.

            Next, she goes to her house where she is greeted by a grieving gardener and maid. Julie seems sad, but does not cry. When the maid, Marie, breaks down in tears, Julie asks her why she is crying. Marie responses, “Because you’re not.” Julie has cut herself off from emotion.
            Olivier finds Julie in the house, though they say nothing to each other. She speaks to the lawyer and asks him to sell everything, including the house. She wants no possessions. The money will go to paying for her mother in the assisted living home and she states she also wants Marie and the gardener taken care of. Next, she pulls a single strand from her daughter’s hanging blue lamp and grips it tightly.
            Olivier, in his car, goes through Patrice’s old papers and documents. We see pictures: Patrice, Patrice with his family, and Patrice with another woman. This is the first hint given that Patrice was having an affair.
            Julie sits at the piano, playing the unfinished piece for the Unification of Europe concert. She abruptly slams the piano shut and goes to Patrice’s music editor. As she picks up the revised sheet music, the editor calls it beautiful. Julie takes it, walks outside, and throws the music into a garbage truck, watching it be destroyed.
                        She goes through her purse, finding a blue sucker of Anna’s. She devours it and throws the stick and wrapper into the fire. She calls Olivier and asks him if he loves her. He says yes and he comes over. The only thing left in the house in a barren mattress and they make love on it. In the morning she explains that she had sex with him so that he would understand that she’s just like any other woman. She walks out of the house and Olivier calls after her to no avail.
            Now we really understand what Julie is trying to do. She is ridding herself of her old life. Julie seeks total personal liberty, she wants to be attached to nothing. She wants all her possessions and house to be sold. She’s done with possessions. By this point we know that Julie actually wrote the concert piece. By slamming the piano and destroying the sheet music we know that she is done with music. She knows that Olivier loves her and sleeps with him in hopes of breaking the idealized version of her he keeps in his head. She’s done with people. She’s walking into a new life where nothing exists, but what about the woman in the pictures with Patrice? Is it possible to move on without grieving for her husband and daughter?
            Pages 29-39: (Plot Point One) Protagonist moves into a new internal/external landscape. The world is shifting and offers the protagonist growth/change. This shift would be perceived as a kind of success for the protagonist. For the viewer, the shift should also suggest possible trouble.
            Leaving her old world behind, Julie enters a new world of her own choosing. We see her walking down the street, carrying a box. As she walks, she intentionally scrapes her hand against a jagged stone wall. It cuts her hand and she tightens her fist and brings it to her face, surprised she can still feel pain.
            She goes to a real estate agent and asks for an apartment in a building with no children. The real estate agent asks her what she does and she says “nothing.” When he questions her she replies, “Nothing at all.” When the man asks her name she tells him Julie du Courcy, then tells him to put Julie Vignon; she is going back to her maiden name.
            Julie unpacks in her new apartment. Inside the box she was carrying was Anna’s blue hanging lamp. It’s the first to go up in the apartment and Julie struggles emotionally with hanging it. This lamp is the only thing she brought from her old life. It represents Julie’s memories of her daughter and becomes an object of intrinsic interest to us.
            Julie’s life now becomes routine. She goes to the café next to her apartment and orders her usual: ice cream and coffee. She listens to the sad recorder player who lives on the street and plays songs that remind her of the unfinished concert she tries to forget. She swims in the apartment pool at night, letting the eerily blue water envelope her.
            Next, Julie is smoking a cigarette when she hears a fight break out outside. She looks and sees an unknown man run into her building. He knocks on her door, but she is too scared to answer. Finally, she goes in the hall to look for the man. Her door blows shut and she is locked out. At this point we are introduced to Lucille. Julie sees her covertly let her neighbor know that he is home and he goes over, presumably for sex.
            Now, Julie is doing just what she wants to do. She gets a new apartment as well as a new name. She lives her life without any possessions or relationships. She seems content by herself, going to the café, and swimming. There is nothing she wants and nothing she needs; she is content, but how long will that contentment last? If she truly wants nothing of her old life, why does she hang on to that blue lamp? While we ask these questions, it seems that Julie is excelling in her new life as a nothing. Maybe she will pull it off.
            Pages 40-53: Now the trouble should thicken up a bit for the protagonist, and for other characters as well. By page 60 the protagonist should cross that line known as the point of no return as the protagonist movies toward what he wants. The protagonist leaves behind an old self or situation by learning new skills, maybe meeting new people. He begins to commit to a new self or situation. He encounters a second conflict and wins again.
            Trouble starts for Julie right at the beginning of this section. Someone rings her doorbell and she drops a potted plant. When she answers the door she finds a neighbor, wanting her to sign a petition to kick another neighbor out of the building, as she is a “whore.” Julie tells her that it is not her problem.
            In the next scene, Julie is back at the hospital getting a check-up. She gets a call at the hospital from Antoine. The doctor tells her that Antoine has been trying to get a hold of her and he thought it would be OK. Antoine tells her that he needs to speak with her and that it’s important. Julie tells him that nothing is important, but agrees to meet him anyhow.
            She meets Antoine and he explains that he had found a cross necklace at the scene of the accident and wanted to give it back. He tells her Patrice’s last words. Upon hearing this it seems as though Julie is beginning to cry, but she laughs and explains that his last words were a punchline to a joke he was telling them. Julie tells Antoine to keep the necklace and leaves.
            Making her way to the café she finds the homeless man asleep with his head rested on the cement. She puts his recorder case under his head and asks if he is okay. He looks at her and says, “You always have to hold onto something,” and falls back asleep.
            Next, Lucille comes to Julie’s apartment with flowers to thank her for not signing the petition. She was the only one who didn’t sign it so Lucille got to stay. She comments on Julie’s blue lamp, saying she used to have one when she was a child. She asks Julie if it is a souveneir and Julie says it is. Lucille can’t believe Julie lives alone, stating that she could never spend a night alone. Before she leaves, she tells Julie that something must’ve happened because Julie wasn’t the type someone dumps.
            In the next scene, Julie is confronted by Olivier. He tells her how he spent months trying to find her and got a break when his maid’s daughter saw her in the area. Julie asks him if he was spying. He says that he just misses her. They listen to the homeless man play a song, which reminds them both of the concert piece. Olivier leaves, saying that he’s seen her and that’s good enough for now. Julie watches her coffee dissolve a sugar cube. She goes to the homeless man and asks him how he knows the song he is always playing. He replies that he likes to make up different tunes.
            Several roadblocks are set before Julie. People from her old life try to make connections with her. She brushes off Antoine, as well as Olivier, successfully. New ones also try to form relationships with her. She refuses to sign the petition her neighbor brings over and while she is cordial to Lucille, she makes no effort to be friends. Even the homeless man informs her that everyone has to hold onto something. Not only that, he plays music that reminds her of the unfinished piece that has been nagging her. However, none of these get to Julie. She continues on her road to nothingness. The shot with the sugar cube is of extreme importance. That’s her life now: watching sugar cubes dissolve. That’s all she has and she doesn’t want for more.
            Pages 54-70: The protagonist can’t keep winning. Having entered a new territory of self, the protagonist encounters a big problem not anticipated. Things become extremely difficult. Protagonist tackles the problem, but encounters a setback. Think of the roller coaster effect: lots of ups and downs. There is a big “down” here.
            Julie returns from the grocery store and goes to put a package of bottled water in her closet. She screams as she finds a mother rat and her babies nesting there. Julie goes back to the real estate agent, trying to find a different apartment. He says it will take some time and then she immediately goes to see her mother in the assisted living home. Her mom confuses her with her own sister, Marie-Franc. Julie’s mother asks her about her husband and children and Julie reminds her that they’re all dead. Julie informs her mother of her current goal:
“Now I have only one thing left to do: nothing. I don’t want any belongings, any memories. No friends, no love. Those are all traps.”
            Before she leaves, Julie asks her mother if she was afraid of rats as a child. Her mother tells her that she wasn’t afraid of rats, Julie was. In the next scene Olivier receives the sheet music for the concert for the Unification of Europe. He takes a shot and begins playing. Julie goes to a neighbor, who propositions her for sex, but Julie only wants to borrow his cat. She puts the cat in with the rats and closes the door.
            Next, she goes swimming in the pool. Lucille finds her and asks if she’s been crying. She says no and then explains about the rats. Realizing she is afraid, Lucille offers to help her. Later than night, Lucille calls at 11:30 saying she needs Julie. Julie is reluctant, but goes to the address Lucille gave her.
            Lucille works in a sex club and Julie finds her nearly in tears. Lucille explains that she was about to go on and she saw her father in the audience. She didn’t know what to do or who to call so she called Julie. As she explains she has sex and people pay to see, her partner comes up and asks her to get him ready for the show. She strokes him and she finishes telling Julie that eventually her father had to leave; she figured he had to catch the last bus. She thanks Julie, who says she didn’t do anything. Lucille insists that she came and it was the same difference. Julie asks Lucille why she works there and Lucille says that she likes it: everyone likes it. Before she leaves to start her show, Lucille looks at the TV from across the way and asks Julie if that’s her on the TV.
            Julie looks at the newscast on the TV and sees a picture of her taken by the reporter on the day she refused her. She looks beat up. Olivier appears on the program and it is announced that he is going to try and finish Patrice’s piece for the Unification of Europe. The TV then shows several documents and pictures related to Patrice, the ones that we saw Olivier looking at in the car earlier. Among these pictures are the ones of Patrice with the other woman, Sandrine.
            After finally achieving success in her new life, Julie encounters her first real setback: the rats. For the first time we see her reach out to someone from her past. She visits her mother for some comfort, though she finds none. She decides to take care of it herself and borrows the neighbor’s cat. She finds that she can’t face the rats herself and seeks help from someone else by telling Lucille about her problem. Lucille offers to help.
            Since Lucille helped her, Julie is obligated to help Lucille when she calls her crying later that night. She has now faulted twice on her goal of achieving total personal liberty. The second fault is the most important because in helping Lucille she was forced to see the newscast. Had she not helped Lucille she wouldn’t have known Olivier was finishing the concert, or that her husband had been seeing someone else. Both of these revelations are devastating to her.
            Pages 71-84: The protagonist experiences a real loss or setback that is the result of overcoming the first obstacle in the first 30 pages. The protagonist is scrambling for stability in this new territory. Protagonist discovers a key thing and has one choice: to do what must be done.
            Julie goes back to the music editor to get the contact information for Olivier. Julie asks her why she made copies. She tells Julie that she thought she would destroy the music and that it was too beautiful to be destroyed.
            She finds Olivier and literally chases down his car. She asks him how he could finish the concert. He tells her that he had to do something big to force her to do or say something. Back as Olivier’s place he plays the piece and they discuss the chorus. She finally asks Olivier about the girl. He is surprised that Julie didn’t know and tells her that it had been going on for years. He tells her that he thinks she is a lawyer or a law clerk.
            Julie finds Sandrine at the courthouse and then follows her to a café. Julie gets nervous and goes into the bathroom. Sandrine walks into the bathroom with a stomach that is showing; Sandrine is pregnant. Julie asks if she was Patrice’s mistress and she says yes. She asks if that’s his baby. Sandrine explains that Patrice didn’t know and that she didn’t find out until after the accident. Sandrine asks if Julie wants to know if Patrice loved her. Julie says that she was going to ask that, but that she knows he loved her. Sandine wears a cross. similar to Julie’s and we are to assume that Patrice gave both of them crosses of tokens of love. Julie leaves.
            She goes to see her mother. Looking at her through the glass she decides that she can’t. Instead, she goes to see Olivier. She begins working on the concert piece with him and they discuss the finale. Finally, she asks Oliver if the lawyer had sold the house yet. He says no and she tells him to let the lawyer know not to sell it.
            We now see Julie losing her grip on her nothingness. She goes to the music editor to find Olivier and confronts him. Then she goes to Sandrine and confronts her. Seeking comfort, she goes to see her mother, but then decides to visit Olivier instead. Here, we see Julie reaching out to others. Not only is she reaching out to people, but she is working on music again. She decides she wants to finish the concert piece. Her deciding not to sell the house tells us she has a plan for it, though we are not sure what it is.
            Pages 85-90: (Second Plot Point) Protagonist starts moving toward the final goal, which is the goal that he first sought, and it’s now in reach. Subplots start wrapping while building towards the climax of the main plot. Restate the central issue of the story and the protagonist’s commitment to a new life by revisiting issues of the first plot point.
            Julie returns to her old house. The gardener informs her that the house in completely empty: Olivier had bought the mattress. Sandrine arrives at the house and Julie gives her a tour. Julie asks if the baby is a boy or girl and if she has chosen a name. Sandrine tells her it’s a boy and that she had decided on a name. Julie tells Sandrine that she should have Patrice’s name and his house. Sandrine tells her that Patrice had always told her that she was a good and generous person. Sandrine apologizes for the affair.
            Back at her apartment Julie finishes the concert piece. She calls Olivier and tells him she is finished. Olivier tells her that he can finish it or she can, but they have to be honest. She agrees and hangs up. She immediately calls back and asks him about the mattress and if he still loves her. He says that he loves her. She asks if he is alone and he says, “Of course I’m alone.” She tells him she’s coming over. She grabs the music, looks at the blue lamp, and leaves.
            Now Julie’s new world and commitment to nothing is falling apart. She extends her kindness to Sandrine. Not only does she give her Patrice’s house, but his name, as well. She finishes the concert piece and decides to see Olivier. Is she giving up completely? Can she exist again in the world she left behind?
            Pages 91-93: Build to climax of main story. Confrontation erupts, and the protagonist wins or loses. Perhaps he gains something unexpected, more than expected.
            The film now goes into a montage, with Julie’s concert piece playing in the background. Her and Olivier have sex. Antoine is seen, looking sad, gripping the necklace that Julie gave him. Julie’s mother is seen in reflections, looking sad and lost. Lucille is at the sex club, with the same expression as Antoine and Julie’s mother. Sandrine is in the doctor’s office, the only happy one in the bunch. She smiles as she sees her baby son on the ultrasound monitor. The final shot is a naked Olivier, reflected in Julie’s eye.
            By having sex with Olivier, Julie opens herself to feeling again. We then see the faces of all those people who are in Julie’s life, for better or for worse. Julie finally realizes that her goal is futile. One can’t live in this world without friends or love. It’s an impossible thing to do. Seeing Olivier reflected in Julie’s eye expresses this.
            The only other time we see someone reflected in her eye was the doctor in the beginning of the film, when he told her Patrice and Anna had died. This is the moment she resolved to live for nothing. While having sex with Olivier she opens up again, thinking of all the people in her life. Olivier’s reflection in her eye tells us that she’s come back to the world of feeling.
            Pages 94-95: Wrap up the main story, illustrating the ultimate and lasting growth of the character.
            At the end of the montage we see Julie looking out of a window. She begins to cry, and as she does so a blue glare grows on the window. This is the first time we have seen her cry. This cements the idea that she has opened up to feeling again; she’s not going to revert back to her world of nothing.
            Julie has failed on her journey to nothingness. She vowed to liberate herself from everything, but she couldn’t do it. She discovered that one needs to mourn and one needs to love. One is not truly liberated if they allow themselves to love, but maybe freedom really is slavery. Alternately, perhaps she liberated herself from nothingness. In true anti-tragedy tradition, Julie failed herself, but by losing she opens herself up to a whole world of emotions and possibilities.

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