Love and fate collide in 3 Hearts

Mar 04, 2015

A happy ending or a sad one? There is a destructive force at the core of the key characters in the French film 3 Couers (3 Hearts) and yet also a strong romantic belief that contentment is achievable.

The tension between these two elements, and the question of which might win through, underpins the movie, which features in the Alliance Français French Film Festival opening this week in Adelaide.

Tax auditor Marc Beaulieu (Benoît Poelvoorde) misses his train home to Paris after a day’s work south of Lyon in provincial France. That turns out to have an upside, since he unexpectedly meets and falls for Sylvie Berger (Charlotte Gainsbourg).

They walk and talk the night away. No phone numbers are exchanged but in a nod to the mystery and magic of love – and numerous love stories before this one – they arrange to meet again. Predictably, circumstances intervene and they seem destined not to resume where they left off.

What makes Marc appealing to women is something of a conundrum. He is a rather beaten man who has lost in love before and is uncertain about himself and his direction. He is unassertive to the point of being limp, but this behaviour may be intended to highlight his lack of self-belief, compounded when he loses contact with Sylvie. Perhaps the only way is up.

When his subsequent work brings him into the orbit of Sophie Berger (Chiara Mastroianni), he is unaware that he is helping Sylvie’s sister. That coincidence fuels the story, lifting it a notch with its concerns revolving around the effect of keeping secrets. That propels it towards the denouement – the question of what is to happen within the family when hidden things are revealed. Catherine Deneuve plays the mother of the two women, observing but not intruding until a key moment.

Until the fact of the secret emerges, Marc is able to settle into a new life in different surroundings, with a marriage and a child, though sometimes still haunted by his past encounter with Sylvie. The first moment of significant disclosure is beautifully and silently handled. It employs social media and relies masterfully on faces, on light and shade, and what is therefore still half-hidden. It is also worth noting that clever use is made of a mirror in the story to highlight Marc’s deepening worries.

Occasional eruptions from the musical score are strange, with deep and portentous sounds suggesting meaningful events about to transpire. They don’t always occur and are, in any case, unnecessary. Similarly, a couple of voice-overs are redundant. We see and hear what we need to see well enough without such prompts.

This movie speaks of fate in many ways. Who is fully engaged with their lives? Who is in control?

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The Berger sisters sometimes adopt a smile as a mask as if to indicate that they are stepping back a little from an unpalatable moment.  There is duplicity, hope, doubt, some kinds of love, and a feeling that you don’t always have a choice.

The second moment of disclosure will either touch your heart or seem like a cop-out. The film as a whole may make you think of the role that chance plays in your life. Hopefully, it makes you happy to be where you are right now.

The Alliance Français French Film Festival opens at Palace Nova Eastend on Thursday (March 5) and continues until March 24. 3 Hearts screens on March 7, 11, 13, 14, 21 and 23.



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