"The use of close-ups throughout the film keep us closely connected with the characters, but we are never provided with a solid understanding of space as a result."
Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013), whose original French title is La Vie d'Adèle – Chapitres 1 & 2 (The Life of Adèle – Chapters 1 & 2), highlights the importance of the color blue in its title. It’s no surprise then that the color plays a significant role throughout the film. In interviews, Adèle Exarchopoulos has noted that the title of the film references the emotional qualities of the film, as she remarks that blue becomes an obsession for her character and that the color is essentially a symbol for Emma (Léa Seydoux) and her “sensuality… comfort… home.”
Emma, with her blue hair, represents the freedom and passion that Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) desires. The color blue also appears in a number of scenes throughout the film; Emma’s parent’s house door is blue, walls are blue and the production design makes heavy use of the color.
In the course of the film, we explore the differences between both female characters. Adèle is represented as a character who acts on emotion, whereas Emma acts on impulse and her free-spirited nature becomes attractive for Adèle. Emma, however, is the more sensible of the two. In a particular scene, Emma focuses her attention onto a friend, Lise, during a party, primarily for reasons that are beneficial to the career and success she has in mind for herself. In addition, as the narrative progresses, and as Emma matures and evolves as an artist and woman, she loses some of her defining characters; thus, as she does, she loses her blue hair as well, her visual symbol for the qualities she embodies. In their explosive fight scene, Emma is transformed, both physically and emotionally.
Blue Is the Warmest Color also examines class structure with both characters; the working class and the bourgeoisie. The notion of class is highlighted in various details, one of which is the representation of food. In the opening scenes of the film, we see Adèle’s life in her home; as she eats pasta with her family, we hold on close-up images of them, accentuating their sloppiness. Adèle’s face is covered in sauce – she chews with her mouth open, immaturely cleans her mouth by licking her lips and wipes her mouth clean using her hands.
In comparison, when Emma invites Adèle over for dinner with her family, her parents welcome Adèle by offering her a glass of white wine. Emma’s stepfather is introduced as the family cook; whereas in Adèle’s family, food is essential for survival, in Emma’s family, food is represented as art, further highlighting Emma’s upbringing and artistic abilities. In addition, unlike the primal behavior of Adèle’s family while eating their pasta, dinner in Emma’s house consists of oysters and is much more formal. Emma even walks the inexperienced Adèle through the process of correctly eating an oyster. Emma’s parents are clearly more cultured, speaking about their love of food and art over dinner. Emma’s family is also more progressive and welcoming; Emma kisses Adèle in front of them and her parents are accepting of her sexuality.
Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013) and its filmmaker Abdellatif Kechiche received the prestigious Palme d’Or at the 2013 Festival de Cannes; a first in the history of the film festival, its performers were also acknowledged for the prize. The film, therefore, is very much theirs – composed primarily of close-ups, we spend much of the film observing and studying their faces, their mannerisms and their reactions.
In our analysis, we focused on the explosive fight scene between Adèle and Emma. In a prior scene, when Emma diverts her attention onto Lise, their relationship is fractured. Adèle later cheats with a colleague, resulting in the destruction of her relationship with Emma. In its focus of close images, we experience Adèle’s and experience life through her eyes. The scene begins with Adèle being dropped off by her colleague; she enters through a blue door and soon exits after her companion drives off. Adèle then enters Emma’s house; we open on an image of Emma in focus, a mirror behind her, and as Adèle enters frame, we rack focus onto her. Emma questions her about the fake address she had provided her driver. Adèle lies about the address and location of her residence as a way keeping her lies about her hidden relationship.
Their fight, which conveniently takes place outside a closet space, is emotionally exhausting. Léa Seydoux has noted that the scene was filmed with three cameras as a one-hour continuous take. In addition, she was provoked and forced into actual slapping and hitting Adèle, resulting in a more “realistic” performance. The multiple camera setup also assists during the intense moments of their fights, as the frequent cuts heighten the intensity of the fight. The fight itself, which like the rest of the film, is captured mostly in close-ups, adds to the energy of the scene. The use of close-ups throughout the film keep us closely connected with the characters, but we are never provided with a solid understanding of space as a result; spaces of locations are never really shown and we are never provided with an understanding of surrounding space.