Sunday, 21 August 2011

A Winter's Tale

This is the second of Eric Rohmer's quadrilogy presenting a story from each of the four seasons. I have already commented on A Summer's Tale and A Tale of Springtime. This one also explores love, commitment, indecision and fulfilment.

In a story that seems so incredible as to be implausible, Rohmer marries together plot devices from Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale with Pascal's Wager - a metaphysical equation designed to prove the benefit of hoping in the Christian afterlife. (A rational person should wager as though God exists, because living life accordingly has everything to gain, and nothing to lose.) In case the viewer doesn't make the connection both Shakespeare and Pascal's ideas are inserted crudely into the narrative to make the point.

The central character Felice (Charlotte Very) is a loathsome idealist who uses and abuses the two men in her life, Maxence and Loic as she lives in hope of rediscovering Charles - a holiday romance from five years ago and father of her daughter Elise. Whilst she does have love for Maxence and Loic, she can't live with either as she doesn't love them sufficiently. However, she is prepared to accept their roof over her head while her mother provides care for Elise. Much commentary on society centres on the systematic abuse of women by men as items of consumption - this film is an antidote to that critique.

Paris is portrayed as cold and wet - not the usual views we get in cinema. The city of Nevers is similarly cold and grey. Only the bright and bustling Brittany seaside and the romance with Charles has any visual warmth. Maxence is shown as caring and patient, wishing to include Felice in his expanding and successful business and wishing to set up home with her. Loic is portrayed as gentle, kind, generous and willing to wait until Felice comes around. 

Maxence is committed to propriety and, as far as modern relationships allow, doing the right thing. Loic is seen as someone wrestling with making sense of their Christian faith in the face of the world around them. Felice rejects both ways of being and pursues her own brand of mystical utopianism in which premonition, not chance, plays an important part. Dragged into Nevers Cathedral by Elise as she wants to see the Crib, Felice sits on her own in the large and empty church, perhaps for the first time, and experiences an epiphany in which for the first time she sees everything clearly. A religious non-religious type experience.

This leads her to return to Paris and days later she is reunited with Charles after a chance meeting on a bus and she, Elise and Charles live happily ever after. Maxence and Loic are left scratching their head's and licking their wounds.

Relationships can be sources of great elation and life-affirming. They can also be painful and abusive. I wonder what Rohmer was really trying to say? Perhaps nothing more than that.

I'll give it 6/10.

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