N.B.: If you plan to watch this film, be warned, I reveal the ending in this blog.
Following in the recurring series on love and relationships...
Released in 1987, La vie est un long fleuve tranquille is a gem of a film. Already quite post-modern, it has two distinct and interwoven plots. The central plot, the one that takes up most of the film reels, is about Maurice, a pre-adolescent boy who has been raised in by a poor family on the wrong side of the tracks. Due to the events of the other plot line, he finds himself relocated to another family, a wealthy family who are in fact his biological relatives. An intentional mix-up at the clinic where he and his "sister" were born results in the secreting of the truth. Once returned to his true family (the "sister" is also kept with the wealthy family), he attempts to conform to their staid, bourgeois expectations. His formative years, however, have been spent in the confines of poverty, and he has learned to survive by thieving and lying. Following the typical moral of the story, he reverts to his previous behaviors but now finds even easier marks among his small northern town's provincial bourgeoisie. He systematically tears apart his new-found family and sends them spiralling from one moral conundrum to another.
The story of Maurice would at first glance seem to be the main story, but after having viewed the film many times, I would argue that the other, apparently secondary plot which sets the former into motion is the "real story." It relates the secret romance of Louis and Josette, doctor and nurse in the clinic where Maurice was born. These two had been having a secret affair for 14 years when the doctor's wife fell ill and died. Josette, the hopeless romantic now believes that the doctor will make a clean slate of their relationship and bring it out into the open. Attending the dead wife's funeral, she approaches Louis and lifts her black veil and offers her condolences, but he snubs her. Unbelievably wounded by his rejection, she takes her revenge on him. She writes letters to both families, the poor Groseille and the wealthy Le Quesnoy revealing how she switched the children on the night of their birth. Considering the relative conservatism of bourgeois French culture, the doctor is shamed into relinquishing his post. Josette promptly skips town as well. In a letter to Louis she writes: "je vais t'écraser comme une merde." - I'm going to crush you like a piece of shit.
The revelation of this plot line occurs early in the film and does not meets its resolution until the very end of the film where we behold a windswept beach in norther France on a brillant fall day. The ocean is crashing along the sand, and in a neat and tidy beach house, Josette is drinking from a large glass of red wine. She stares triumphantly out into the sea, then turns and glares at the shivering form of Louis, broken and cold, having no one else to turn to, loosely clutching a glass of red wine as well (it should be noted that in nearly every scene where Louis appears he is drinking white wine). He has lost everything: his career, his respect, even his wine. He will not spend his remaining years under the constant glaring gaze of Josette.
Why is this one of my favorite films? I understand Josette perfectly. If I had been she, I would have done the same thing. The only thing better than a good Welsh love story where everyone dies is a good love story about revenge! ;)
(Photos de www.thelin.net)
Lucky for me I turned into a bitter Old Maid before some Louis got to me and charmed me!
Da rag un tra yu den kemyn, ha henna yu kysi dhymm tybyans, hihi ;)