Enfants Du Siecle

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Movie Review by Lisa Henshall

Starring: Juliette Binoche, Benoit Magimel, Stefano Dionisi
Director: Diane Kurys

Other films about the life of the writer George Sand (Juliette Binoche) have concentrated on her 10 year relationship with the composer Chopin, but this films tells of a more tempestuous affair which took place a few years earlier in 1833 with Alfred De Musset (Benoit Magimel), who at the age of 23 was an up and coming poet, who would later be noted as ‘the most gifted poet and writer of his generation’.

As an impetuous young artist, Alfred is fond of extremes – drink, women and gambling are among his vices – but when he meets George his devotion to her leads to a change in his own behaviour. Separated from her husband (living in Paris with her children) and 6 years his senior, she worries about the scandal an affair may cause, so initially resists his advances, preferring friendship. But it is a meeting of both hearts and minds, they fall hopelessly in love, and invariably a full-blown affair commences. They become the celebrity couple of Parisian society – everything seems perfect for them, until they decide to travel to Italy to escape for a few months and gain inspiration for their writing.

On the tortuous journey, tensions are sparked when George becomes ill and Alfred is exposed as an unsympathetic and selfish companion, and on reaching Venice their relationship deteriorates as he once more returns to drinking, gambling and whoring. As their love comes apart at the seams, Alfred becomes seriously ill (the result of his now drug-influenced socialising). The relationship can only end in misery for both parties as the self-destructive nature of their love threatens them.

The title is taken from Musset’s only novel, the masterpiece ‘Confessions of a Child of the Century’ -written shortly after the break-up of his relationship with George Sand – which tells of the authors tempestuous and self-destructive relationship with ‘a woman who embodied hope and happiness’, and was written as his way of asking for her forgiveness. Diane Kurys, who directed and co-wrote the screenplay has said that in this film she wanted to show that “The place and importance of love in one’s life is not always immediately clear. It is only with the passage of time that we appreciate the true measure of the feeling we have experienced….and….recognise that we have at least once, genuinely loved someone with all our heart”.

Indeed, Kurys has been successful in capturing the essence of ‘romanticism’ throughout the film, although at times it feels rather rushed and you feel that elements of the story are being skipped over in favour of hurrying the story along to its conclusion. The acting is faultless, with Juliette Binoche and Benoit Magimel both excellent in the lead roles, and a good supporting cast as well. The scenery and costumes are also magnificent with much use of colour to emphasise the moods throughout the film – rich, warm colours for the happier times in their relationship and dark, grey colours when it is in a state of turmoil. I only wish the film had been longer to accommodate the whole story better without the need to rush, but this would have meant the film probably lasting approx. 3 hours which is not very practical for a commercial film of this kind.

4 out of 6 stars