Released after I am Curious (Yellow) (1967), I Am Curious (Blue) (1968, dir. Vilgot Sjöman) continues to follow Lena Nyman on her journey of self-discovery as an actress in a film-within-a-film, and as an independent and passionate woman who wants to know more about life. Initially intended to be constructed as a singular film, Yellow and Blue were separated into two films that have a similar timeline, but differing events, and each film tends to focus on different themes.
I Am Curious (Blue) (henceforth known as just Blue) starts with a singsong tune about the need for Sweden to become a leader in social democracy, which sets the tone for the rest of the film. Whilst Yellow seemed to be all about world politics and overseas injustices, Blue is about politics at home in Sweden. Lena interviews people on the street (and at a dance party, at a sex ed class, at a church, the list goes on) all about the concept of meritocracy, the income gap in Sweden, class boundaries, the privilege of the educated, welfare support, the separation of church and state, Christianity, prison welfare, and the justice system. And probably more topics that I didn’t write down. Lena asks people on the street, “Is Sweden a classist society?”, and the answers are quite revealing. Some say yes, some say no, and the moments where each individual attempts to justify their answers to all of Lena’s questions are probably the most revealing moments of the film.
Lena Nyman is the star of this film. She is feisty, inquisitive, and a total bright spark with a heap of passionate, stubborn political intelligence. As Lena Nyman playing the character of Lena Nyman in a film-within-a-film (slightly confusing) she commands the viewers’ attention; almost as much as she commands the attention of the people who answer her confronting and controversial questions on camera. There’s one scene where Lena is asking a blindly committed Christian about his beliefs, contradicting him at every turn with Socratic questioning methods that turn his assertions upside down. She completely confuses and befuddles him until he admits that he doesn’t know how to answer her questions, and he looks as if he’s questioning his own beliefs after they have been tested. In a way this is what Lena does to the audience as well. The more we find out about her, the more things start to contradict, but at the same time we want to find out more about her. It’s a strange dichotomy, but Lena Nyman excels in this film and makes that dichotomy and confusion almost understandable – and certainly very compelling. All of the performances in this film are exceedingly natural.
As with Yellow, this film is split between being a film about making a film, and being a film-within-a-film, and most of the time it’s difficult to tell which space the characters are operating within. There were times where the characters would be interacting or travelling somewhere and I would forget the film-within-a-film format until there would be a moment where the viewer is abruptly jolted out of that frame of mind. Some of my favourite moments in Blue were where the viewer operates in the space between these two modes. For example, where director Vilgot Sjöman makes the characters pause to rework a line of dialogue and then retake a scene. Or, where we see all the crew sitting beside the road where filming is taking place, and they begin singing a haunting folk-style song out of the blue that relates to the film’s themes. Most notably, there’s another moment where the director pauses the development of the story to share some ‘fan mail’ with the viewers where Lena is repeatedly called a whore and a prostitute – showing the audience’s response to the first film within the body of the second one. This overlap and intertwining between the story and what the director intends for the story is quite magical when you watch it unfolding. I can only imagine how amazing this would have been if Yellow and Blue were combined into the one film as was originally intended. It would have been a long film, but certainly a very intriguing one as well.
However, there’s something about this second installment that seems less experimental – almost as if the director wanted to pack a punch with the first film, and ensured that it contained the majority of the issues that would scandalise and confront people. Don’t get me wrong, Blue contains as much political passion as Yellow, if not more, and it did seem like there was just as much nudity and sexual themes/scenes even though people say this is generally the less sexual one. But its structure is slightly more straightforward and thus the themes don’t jump out and slap you in the face as much. Or it could be that viewers are already primed to know what to expect after watching the first film, and thus won’t be as surprised with the second one. Which makes me think, again, of how much of an amazing impact that Yellow and Blue could make as a singular film.
When I had a look around on the internet to research I Am Curious (Blue), there isn’t a lot about this one. It seems that the scandal about I Am Curious (Yellow) overtook the public consciousness regarding these films and that this second one has been hidden in the shadows. However, if anyone is thinking of watching the first one, I would definitely say you can’t skip out on the second. Even though, as aforementioned, the timeline of the film is sort of similar, and it follows the same kind of story development/progression, Yellow and Blue are two different and equally valuable films for different reasons. Blue provides a thought-provoking and genuinely fascinating insight into the political mindsets and social beliefs in Sweden at the time. The fact that Blue itself is self-referential enhances the idea that reflecting on one’s beliefs and political ideals is the best way to explore them – which is what the film sets out to do. I would say this film is a success, but some people would say it’s more of the same. Either way, Lena Nyman sells this film for me. I just wish there was some form of director’s cut where the two films could be seen together as one epic director’s cut, showing the two colours of the Swedish flag together as one as the director originally intended.