How Does the Narrative Structure of “The Blue Room” Serve the Film’s Material?


The Blue Room (2014) is an interesting film in the sense that it arguably has no plot. The film’s just-over-70-minute runtime is the perfect space for turning a very simple concept into a beautifully-constructed art piece. The Blue Room effectively narrates the history of Julien (Mathieu Amalric) and Esther’s (Stéphanie Cléau) affair in tandem with police interrogations about a mysterious crime, all of which is in the past. The film is held together by the exceptional editing of two timelines cut into one seamless flow, and the fact we spend the bulk of the piece wondering what crime Julien is being interrogated for.

Julien gets repeatedly interrogated about the same events by different investigators. They infer every detail of his time with Esther, harping on the most uncomfortable and minute elements, that the film plays out as an unreliable, emotional frenzy. His reminiscence gets distorted. He tries to keep the details together. All the while, we’re wondering what destination this road is leading toward.

The Blue Room pieces together the details of its plot like a jigsaw puzzle, but seeing the final picture is not its principal pleasure. Instead, if for the first half you’re awaiting answers about what transpired between Delphine, Esther and Julien, much of what keeps the film compelling in its second hour is how revelations of small details shift the meaning of previous words and actions: What seemed like thoughtless pillow talk turns into criminal intentions; what seemed like unremarkable marital tension turns into dark premonitions.” - NPR

“The film doesn’t really have a plot, and Amalric, who co-wrote the script with Cléa, probably knows that too. He pointedly refuses to establish a present tense, locking the audience out of a story that appears to have played out before the film began…. Something dreadful has clearly happened to trigger this intense interest in Julien on the part of the authorities, and Amalric savors this mood of anticipatory dread. We hear what Julien tells the cops and see—in purplish, hallucinatory images—the events that inspire his accounts, which subtly differ from one another. A conventional director would highlight this discrepancy to cast doubt on Julien’s motives, but Amalric emphasizes the past as an illusory dimension that resists quantification, as a realm that irrationally informs our present decisions. The past, which is to say, the proper narrative of the film, lingers just out of reach, leaving Julien, and us, with impressionistic shards of incident that can occasionally draw surprising emotional blood.” - Slant Magazine