Un Cœur en hiver is a sublimely sensual and sophisticated love story. Camille, a concert violinist (Emmanuelle Beart) is intrigued by her lover Maxim’s (Andre Dussollier) business partner, Stephane (Daniel Auteuil). Stephane is a methodical repairer of fine musical instruments. He is precise in his craft, silent, and enigmatic. Noticing a string buzz on her violin shortly before a scheduled recording, she takes her instrument to Stephane, who listens intently, and quickly repairs the problem. Stephane appears genuinely interested in her music, although he is evasive and obscure. Camille interprets his distance as a sign of gradual, intellectual seduction. But Stephane has a characteristic defect. He is a social voyeur – observing people around him, listening quietly to their life stories – yet is incapable of emotional intimacy. The tenuous relationship that develops around the characters is compelling to watch. This is a powerfully subdued and provocative film about the complexity, and imperfection, of human relationships.
Claude Sautet’s use of the musical trio is a dynamic element thematic development of Un Cœur en hiver. Within the framework of the trio is a symbiotic relationship: alone, each is incomplete. As Maxim relies on Stephane for his livelihood, Stephane lives vicariously through Maxim. Their relationship provides him some semblance of intimacy without the emotional toll or commitment. As in François Truffaut’s Jules and Jim, it is symbolic of a triadic “affair” that develops. The selection of Ravel’s Trio suits the film’s lyrical beginning, discordant revelation, and threnodic conclusion. It is a pensive film that seduces the mind, and exhilarates the senses.
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