Ein Herz im Winter
„Ein Herz im Winter”
“Un Coeur en Hiver” — “A Heart in Winter”
Frankreich 1992 – Regie: Claude Sautet – Musik: Maurice Ravel
Chicago Sun-Times - Roger Ebert
gif.gif (807 Byte) gif.gif (807 Byte)

Chicago Sun-Times, 2. Juli 1993

“Un Coeur en Hiver.”

Rating: ***½

“Un Coeur en Hiver.” A heart in winter. There are those who somehow cannot love, who were born or made without that gift in their personality. In all other ways they may be complete, but something is broken inside, and love, which can heal so many things, cannot repair it. “Un Coeur en Hiver” is the story of such a man.

His name is Stéphane. He is an expert builder and repairer of violins — so good that the greatest violinists from all over the world come to his studio in Paris. He is not the owner, however, but an employee, and happy to be employed. Relations with the public he leaves with Maxime, who has been his boss and co-worker for many years.

It is a crucial point, I think, that “Un Coeur en Hiver” begins with a narration by Stéphane describing the relationship of these two men. They are not homosexual – indeed, by the end of the film they will have come to blows over the same woman – but Stéphane's life is defined by the fact that he works for Maxime, admires him, envies his social skills, and depends on him as a shield against the world. Maxime has those gifts which Stéphane lacks, and so by staying close to him, he can make use of them. It is a symbiotic relationship.

One day a beautiful young woman, Camille, a gifted violinist, comes into the workshop. She needs advice on her violin, which the two men are able to give her. Soon she is dating Maxime, as Stéphane looks on from a distance. Then Camille and Stéphane have a conversation about her playing, and two things become evident: Stéphane hears a great deal when he listens to music, and Camille has fallen in love with him.

She tells Maxime. It is regrettable, and messy, but there it is: She loves his partner, and must leave him. She goes to Stéphane. He is flattered, and overwhelmed; he finds her beautiful, and desires her. That would be the end of the story, except that it gradually develops that Stéphane is in no mood to commit himself to their relationship. He is not physically incapable, but it's as if his personality is impotent. Or almost as if Stéphane is more comfortable when Maxime takes care of those kinds of details.

“Un Coeur en Hiver,” directed by Claude Sautet, has the intensity and delicacy of a great short story. It reveals how superficial most movie romances are — because they make love too simple, and too easy a solution. The heart has needs that love does not understand, and for Stéphane, perhaps the comfort of his routine and the consolations of his craft are more valuable than the risks of intimacy.

Daniel Auteuil plays Stéphane. He has an inward-looking face, a repose; he tells us more about himself in the narration than he tells anyone in the film. Camille is Emmanuelle Béart, beautiful, yes, but required here to be a convincing violinist and a theorist about music. She is given a difficult role, and avoids its hazards brilliantly. She must throw over one man and be rejected by another (many of the crucial scenes are in public), and yet seem not foolish but simply unlucky. She must maintain her dignity, or the film will become the story of a woman scorned, which it is not. It is the story of a man not scorned — of how Stéphane psychologically cannot take the woman from Maxime.

As a general rule, the characters in French films seem more grownup than those in American films. They do not consider love and sex as a teenager might, as the prizes in life. Instead, they are challenges and responsibilities, and not always to be embraced. Most movie romances begin with two people who should be in love, and end, after great difficulties, with those two people in love. Here is a movie about two people who should not be in love, and how they deal with that discovery.

by Roger Ebert, Copyright © Chicago Sun-Times Inc.
gif.gif (807 Byte)
gif.gif (807 Byte) gif.gif (807 Byte)
herz@ein-herz-im-winter.de Copyright 1999–2003, Oliver Braun, Berlin
letzte Änderung: 18.07.2004