“An honest, authentic portrayal of emotions we all have to contend with…”
When you see the prestigious Palme d’Or symbol preceding the opening credits of a film, instantly your expectations are suitably raised, and in this instance, it’s justifiably so, as Abdellatif Kechiche’s poignant love story Blue is the Warmest Colour, manages to feel as intimate as it does monumental. In the same way Amour (which won the much coveted prize at Cannes last year) depicted love and death so sincerely and simplistically, Kechiche has taken a similar approach, not doing anything extraordinary, but merely offering an honest, authentic portrayal of emotions we all have to contend with.
When curious teenager Adéle (Adéle Exarchopoulos) realises that she may attracted to other women, she heads down to a gay bar to experiment with her newfound sexual desires. It’s there she she meets Emma (Léa Seydoux) – an eye-catching enigma with blue hair. After a handful of dates, the pair soon find themselves engulfed in a fervent, sexually intense relationship. While Emma, an artist by trade, introduces Adéle to a whole new world, where she can assert herself comfortably as an adult – and a lesbian – question marks remain as to the longevity of this impassioned affair.
Though covering distinctly universal themes of love, showing it off as the wonderment it can be, while conversely as the flawed notion it can represent – Blue is the Warmest Colour remains an intimate portrayal of Adéle, as throughout the camera zooms so closely in on her face, allowing us to feel so entwined with her thoughts. We even seen various shots of her sleeping, viewing her from a vulnerable place and truly getting to know this character inside out. In some instances, some of the scenes featuring the young girl seem somewhat needless and inconsequential – such as the family merely eating dinner, for example. However it all helps to paint this detailed picture of Adéle, as we get to know every single aspect of her, as the mundane, everyday aspects prove to be equally as important as anything else.
Kechiche’s candid exploration of this young girl extends to her sexual discoveries also, as the sex scenes are graphic. Though you can’t help but question the necessity of showing such scenes so explicitly, and for such long periods of times, wondering whether this is mere titillation for the audience, the Tunisian auteur justifies his approach in that we see every minute detail to Adéle’s life, and in such a voyeuristic manner, that when it comes to the sex scenes it seems like a fair decision to continue on in much of the same manner. Meanwhile, Exarchopoulos is breathtaking as our protagonist, with such a desirability to her demeanour, as her distinctively memorable uncombed hair, with her looped earrings makes for an effortlessly iconic image, not to dissimilar to the affect Béatrice Dalle achieved in Betty Blue. To match the performance, the character development to Adéle is incredible, as the woman who finishes the piece is far removed from the young, naïve girl who began it.
Where Blue is the Warmest Colour truly excels, however, is within the sincere portrayal of love and relationships, showing off how the notion of romance and young love doesn’t need to differ because of sexual orientation, portraying love between the same sex as ubiquitous. It would be naïve to say there aren’t any differences because homosexuals have to get through a social barricade of sorts, but nonetheless, love is presented earnestly, as something universal. These emotions are shared between us all, and that’s what makes this film so moving – because it’s a tale so many of us can relate to. Kechiche must be commended for his pensive build up to the romantic narrative at hand, because it doesn’t begin to truly flourish for a long while into proceedings, taking away the idea of it being something impulsive they may regret, instead making it out to be a purposeful, considered coming together.
Considering this film is three hours long, the pacing is spot on. Though perhaps this could have worked better as two parts (how it originally aired in France), it still has the depth to the narrative to ensure the audience stay compelled throughout. It’s subtle and naturalistic, and though there may be some negative press surrounding Kechiche and his hands-on methods, sometimes you feel like we should all focus on what really matters – which is the film itself, and when doing so you’re left to ponder over something quite spectacular.
About the Author
Stefan Pape is a Film Critic for TFM. Follow @stefanpape29