Synopsis: A parallel film to Vilgot Sjöman’s controversial I Am Curious—Yellow, I Am Curious—Blue also follows young Lena on her journey of self-discovery. In Blue, Lena confronts issues of religion, sexuality, and the prison system, while at the same time exploring her own personal relationships. Like Yellow, Blue freely traverses the lines between fact and fiction, employing a mix of dramatic and documentary techniques.
eyelights: its political discourse. its sexy bits.
eyesores: its bland plot.
‘Jag är nyfiken – en film i blått’ is the 1968 follow-up to ‘Jag är nyfiken – en film i gult‘. Once intended as one three-and-a-half hour motion picture, writer-director-co-star Vilgot Sjöman eventually decided to break the film into two parts, the first subtitled “gult” (yellow) and the second “blått” (blue), after the Swedish flag’s colours. It continues the thread of the original, but serves as a prequel of sorts.
Also heavy on political discourse, as Lena explores the political landscape in her native land, this one changes the focus from non-violence and international matters to internal ones, with its main preoccupations being sexuality, women’s roles, the classes, the separation of Church and State, and the prison system. Flashcards of “Fraternization-Sabotage-Non-Cooperation” still flash throughout, though.
But the picture feels far less loaded, far less urgent this time. Perhaps it’s the absence of actual political figures and bulletins to give it gravitas, or perhaps the limited military presence, but it feels more like Lena is taking a cross-country poll than confronting the system. It’s no less interesting, but ‘Jag är nyfiken – en film i blått’ doesn’t have as much of a subversive tenor as its predecessor does.
In fact, by the time Lena returns home from her journey, she actually shies away from her protester friends.
You see, in this one, Lena takes to the road and travels the countryside on her bike, exploring rural Sweden. There she meets all sorts of people, interviewing a young churchgoer about his views on sex and marriage, spending time with a doctor as he consults with a prisoner just before he’s released, staying with a woman who had her daughter at the age of 17 (which was very young then), amongst others.
It provides a more down-to-earth look at Sweden at this juncture in its history, allowing us to explore a vast array of views on each of the issues that are presented. Here, Lena is less confrontational and more likely to let people express themselves without judgement. The picture could very much be a piece of journalism if not for the fact that, like ‘gult’, it also blends reality with fiction and blurs them.
The plot this time is set before the making of ‘gult’, with Börje having just done a screentest for it, and Lena not having a place to stay, having not moved back in with her dad yet. We discover that she and Börje had had a love affair in drama school and that they don’t tell Vilgot about it because she’s in a relationship with him. This secret helps erode her partnership to the point that they break up in ‘gult’.
Otherwise, there’s yet again not much plot. There’s also a lot less experimentation with the film’s structure, though we do sometimes find ourselves shifting from before and behind the camera as reality and fiction overlap. It feels a lot more contrived in some ways, as though Sjöman laboured to make the films work in tandem but couldn’t quite eke it out – especially at the end, with all of its contrived drama.
It’s a lot less fun, too: almost all of the quirky bits that permeated the original film are absent here, and the film takes on a dryer tone. But it’s also less jarring, because the original dealt with severe matters and then got all wacky. Here, the disparity isn’t nearly as great, so it’s much more digestible. In fact, though its 15-minute-reduced length helps, it doesn’t feel nearly as brutally long as ‘gult’.
Interestingly, there’s a lot less sexuality in this one, too. Though they talk about it a lot more, and there is ample nudity, it’s not nearly as explicit this time. Perhaps this is due to the hate mail that Lena received in the shadows of the original (which is shown on screen in one of the film’s rare interludes), but ‘blått’ pushes boundaries far less – aside for a gratuitous, but brief, lesbian scene.
Ultimately, I found ‘Jag är nyfiken – en film i blått’ more enjoyable as a whole, though I find far less interesting. While ‘gult’ was challenging both in its discourse and in its form, this one isn’t nearly as much. But it informs the original quite well, and vice versa, with one filling in the blanks for the other in satisfying ways. From that perspective alone, it’s an enjoyable cinematic exercise.
But is it one worth repeating? That’s another matter altogether…
Date of viewing: December 19, 2016