One Way Love – Rediscovering ‘A Heart in Winter’ / Un Coeur en Hiver (France 1992 – 105 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - January 23, 2015
One Way Love – Rediscovering ‘A Heart in Winter’ / Un Coeur en Hiver (France 1992 – 105 mins)

Deliberately paced but endlessly rewarding, the award-winning French drama ‘A Heart in Winter’ is not your typical romantic movie, but more an intelligent tale of romantic complications and our sometimes lack of emotions.

The ordered lives of esteemed violin makers Stéphane and Maxime are altered forever when beautiful young virtuoso; Camille, employs them to repair her beloved violin. Although she begins a relationship with the popular Maxime, Camille soon finds herself falling in love with the much quieter and reserved Stéphane who, while having clear feelings for Camille, is emotionally unable to commit to her. This, of course, soon leads to unexpected complications in the trio’s professional and personal relationships.

‘A Heart in Winter’ was a favourite on the European award circuit, especially at the French César’s, with all three leads receiving nominations. André Dussollier went on to win Best Supporting Actor, and Claude Sautet picked one up for Best Director.

The three leads are simply perfect, creating believable characters unwittingly caught up in an unusual ménage-à-trois. Beautiful Emmanuelle Béart is wonderful as Camille and had her best role to date, even learning to play the violin to add authenticity to the part. Daniel Auteuil is also superb as Stéphane, a complicated and emotionally reserved loner whose heart gives the movie its title. As Maxime, André Dussollier has the less showy role but plays it perfectly as his character slowly learns of Camille’s attraction to his quiet business partner. Brigitte Catillon deserves mention for her turn as Régine, Stéphane’s friend and confidant, and she also picked up a Supporting Actress nomination at the César’s.

Director Claude Sautet had earlier made another love triangle themed movie, the excellent ‘Cesar & Rosalie’ (‘72) with Yves Montand, Romy Schneider and Sami Frey. A terrific director of actors, Sautet’s final movie was the crowd and critic favourite ‘Nelly & Monsieur Arnaud’ (’95), with Emmanuelle Béart and Michel Serrault.

As well as various emotional scenes and unexpected outbursts, there are some wonderful quiet moments which include Stéphane and his protégé at work, delicately labouring on their violins in near silence. The perceptive script from Sautet and Jacques Fieschi is pitch perfect, and the exquisite use of composer Maurice Ravel’s chamber music, is inspired.

Every time I watch the movie, I sense a little bit of hope for Stéphane and Camille. In the final scene, as they go their separate ways, the glances they give each other suggest that, one day, they may just meet again.

Although the movie will not appeal to everyone, ‘A Hear in Winter’ is a different take on the familiar love triangle. It’s a stunning and realistic drama that never takes the easy route, and it remains my favourite French movie of the 1990’s.

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