À Nos Amours (1983)

The 2011 French Film Festival had its final run last week at the UP Film Institute. Free screenings! Of course I was there: Thursday afternoon, with Sarah; Saturday, with Danica. Featured actress Sandrine Bonnaire stars in both films I watched, À Nos Amours and Vagabond. This year’s festival devoted a significant portion of its line-up to her. It’s a shame I wasn’t able to watch more.

True to its title, this movie revolves around the many loves of Suzanne (Sandrine Bonnaire), a young girl both attractive and adventurous. Her story begins at a summer camp, where she loses her virginity to an American soldier at the age of fifteen. After her boyfriend Luc breaks up with her, she plunges headlong into a series of flings and sexual adventures, to her mother’s horror and her brother’s violent disapproval. Casual relationships characterize the next years of Suzanne’s life, which she spends in a careless pursuit of happiness amidst family troubles and the unexpected return of old lovers.

On the surface, it seems Suzanne’s frustrations emanate from a fixation on love, or at least affection. Acknowledging that she did love Luc, she wonders if it only happens once in a lifetime. What if she never falls in love again? But when Luc approaches her after their breakup (twice, in fact), she rejects him in the most painful of ways. “I don’t want to always hurt people,” she says, but in the end it is what she does. Violence figures prominently in this film, and not only in the physical sense. Relationships offer a lot of room for violence, and sometimes it is these accidental pains we inflict on each other that resist healing the most.

Of course all this is mere speculation. At least on screen, Suzanne’s life rolls on an unspecified timeline. Scenes change abruptly, leaving it up to the viewer to piece together haphazard clues. Most of the time we see Suzanne bored, dabbling in boarding school and marriage as if only to rid herself of ennui. Likewise, the film itself doesn’t lead anywhere. The ending, especially, leaves you with a vague feeling of discontent. Intentional? I like to think so. Perhaps the point is exactly that, how rarely any of us find satisfaction, how—inevitably, after a brush with love—human lives branch off in separate directions, forever in search of the next possible happiness.

‘Don’t you think one can die of love?’

‘There’ll always be sadness.’

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