Blue is the Warmest Color is a stunning portrayal of female coming-of-age, love and loss. The film vividly captures its protagonist Adele’s sexual awakening as a woman, its fulfillment and her eventual heartbreak. The film is based on Julie Maroh’s autobiographical graphic novel of the same name. Blue tells the story of 15-year-old Adele who gradually transitions into adulthood through a series of events which changes her life forever. The film is a tale of two women. The protagonist Adele falls in love and undergoes a journey of self-transformation. It kindles something new in her. She begins to look at life through a new set of eyes. She finds fulfillment and freedom through love. She embraces a new identity through her lover.
Adele is introduced as a precarious teenager who loves to read French literature and who writes regularly in her diary. She portrayed as someone who is detached and impassive. This detachment parallels with her feeling of being vaguely unsure about her budding sexuality. At school, her friends direct her attention toward Thomas who apparently seems taken by her. They goad her into appreciating the fact that she is the recipient of male attention which fits perfectly within the dominant perspective of heterosexual romance.
Adele and Thomas have an awkward first conversation in the bus where they discuss their differing taste in music and Thomas asks Adele to see him again on a proper date. We next see Adele walking on the street, on her way to meet Thomas with the accompaniment of a street percussion player sitting nearby and playing a strange beat which prefigures the entrancing moment which comes next. Adele catches glimpse of a visually striking blue-haired girl with a distinctive physical appearance and style. Adele is visibly stunned by the sight of this woman who is obviously upfront about her sexuality with her arm around another girl. While crossing the road both exchange glances and Adele is instantly attracted and is almost so shaken that she is left standing in the middle of the street her sight lingering on the blue-haired woman. This encounter leaves a deep impression her.
During her date with Thomas, she is hesitant and resists him when he tries to physically warm up to her in the movie theater. Although she kisses him back, she is clearly unmoved by him. The next day her friends at school teasingly ask her about the ‘details’ of the previous afternoon clearly insinuating that they might have slept together. Adele denies their claims and walks on with Thomas following her. When he asks her if she was avoiding him, she kisses him to deny this. She unwittingly conforms to the peer pressure of being a heterosexual teenage girl by having sex with and thereby losing her virginity to Thomas. She is clearly disconnected and disinterested the whole time. She realizes that she was clearly dissatisfied with the experience and remains indifferent to him.
Adele confides in her openly-gay school friend Valentin that she feels like she is faking it and that nothing’s wrong with Thomas but it is her that is missing something. Valentin urges her to stop torturing herself. Adele ends things with Thomas who is left bitter by this.
While Adele is sitting and contemplating, she is joined by one of her female friends who is shown wearing blue nail paint and blue rings. The symbolism here is hard to miss. Her friend flirts with Adele and then kisses her. Adele is visibly flushed and feels an excitement run through her. The next day Adele is shown wearing blue earrings to school and when she approaches her friend and plants kisses on her, she rejects Adele and is taken aback by the fact that she would get ‘so hooked’.
Adele discovers an alternate world when Valentin takes her to a gay bar where she witnesses men kissing each other in apparent abandon. Feeling out of place there she notices and then follows a group of women to a lesbian bar. She is startled to see female couples kissing each other in reckless abandon and the atmosphere of freedom. There she again runs into the blue-haired girl whose name is Emma, a fine arts student and they have a short conversation.
Emma goes to meet Adele at her school. They sit on a bench and talk; they discuss Sartre. Emma says how his philosophy helped her in finding her freedom and asserting her values. She sketches her face to which Adele says it’s her yet it isn’t. The question of identity emerges here as Emma captures a side of Adele which is hidden and mysterious. When it’s time to take leave of each other, there prevails an awkward silence between them which Emma breaks with a kiss on Adele’s cheek.
Adele’s friends gang up on her the next day in a heated confrontation questioning her decision to go with an outsider who is represented by Emma. They accuse her of being a ‘lesbian’ and of viewing them as sexual objects all along. This scene is significant because it represents the homophobia prevalent in a supposedly multicultural France.
In their next meeting, it is Adele who takes the first step and kisses Emma. They both break into smiles, a moment confirming the beginning of their relationship.
They engage in wildly passionate lovemaking and the scene which captures their rapture is filled with warm hues.
Adele metaphorically bids goodbye to her childhood in her birthday scene coinciding with the start of a new chapter in her life. She dances sensuously revealing a side of hers which is usually buried.
We see Adele’s life with Emma as she becomes her muse being, her image being sketched and painted by Emma vividly and plentifully. But one also sees Adele’s alienation in the relationship in a beautifully crafted scene where she cooks and prepares a meal for Emma’s birthday party and invites her artistic, highly cultured friends. She is left seemingly uneasy in the presence of highly accomplished individuals whose conversations on intellectual subjects she could only witness without participating in them herself. Instead, she is left only serving them food and tending to them.
Adele becomes a nursery school teacher in order to give back to the education system that taught her so much. But Emma wants her to achieve her greater creative potential. She urges Adele to write professionally and is embarrassed that the only thing she has written despite her talent is her diary. We also see the differences between both women’s parents and their outlook on life. Emma’s parents welcome Adele as their daughter’s lover and seem liberal and progressive. On the other hand, Adele’s greet Emma as their daughter’s friend who tutors her in philosophy because Adele obviously hasn’t told her parents about their relationship. Moreover, Adele’s parents ask Emma to find a rich husband to support her artistic endeavors and ruminate on the virtues of having a decent economic stability and job in life.
The socioeconomic, cultural and intellectual differences between the women put an invisible strain on their bond. And when out of a mood of isolation Adele is unfaithful to Emma which she discovers later, it only adds fuel to the fire. An enraged Emma lashes out at Adele, verbally abuses her and throws her out of her house despite Adele’s tearful apologies. It is a truly heartbreaking moment in the film.
During Emma’s absence in her life, it is interesting to notice how much the color blue pervades the frames of the film in her life. At the brief meeting when Adele and Emma meet after a long time, Adele tearfully confesses that she still loves her and always will. But Emma rejects her.
In the final scene of the movie, Adele goes to Emma’s art gallery exhibition wearing blue reminiscent of her love for Emma and a hope to reunite with her. But she is devastated as she realizes that Emma has really moved on in her life. The gallery is filled with images of Adele. A dejected Adele walks out with Samir in pursuit of her in the opposite direction. Her walking away having accepted loss is a moment of her extreme loneliness and yet a newfound liberation.
An event which has been a turning point in my life was watching Blue at Ramjas College in Delhi University. I was 19 and at an impressionable age. After watching the film, I was overwhelmed by a range of emotions. From happiness to joy to immense grief. Through this film, I became wholeheartedly tolerant of the idea of a woman loving another woman. A woman wanting another woman intellectually, emotionally and sexually. This film subverted the ideology of heterosexuality in our society. Blue is the warmest color is a radical take on women’s empowerment, female sexuality and the challenges women face in their lives. I was mesmerized by the film. It persuaded me to question my own beliefs and thought processes. Our society is often intolerant towards differences and ‘otherness’. We need more films like this to shake us from our slumber of ignorance and bigotry. We must accept everyone for who they are and the choices they make in their lives. Moreover, I watched the film with many other students of my age in a packed seminar room.
The blue is the warmest color film has a nine-minute-long graphically explicit sex scene. Though watching something like that with people around me made me extremely uncomfortable, I eventually comprehended the beauty and political statement of that scene. It registered that women can experience sexual pleasure without a man. This was a bold display of rebellion. That scene represented a form of unprecedented power women could posit for themselves. This film has taught me a lot about life. It has taught me that I must stand up for myself and must pursue what I love. It ends on a rather sad unhappy, unconventional ending, mirroring how life actually is.