Louis Malle’s incest-tinged ‘Murmur of the Heart’ is a gentle blow against political correctness

Posted on March 12, 2018


Read the full article on Firstpost, here: http://www.firstpost.com/entertainment/louis-malles-incest-tinged-film-murmur-of-the-heart-is-a-gentle-blow-against-political-correctness-4386111.html

There’s nothing quite like the Oscars to put you off political correctness for a while. There’s definitely the need to say these things – about gender equality, about racial discrimination, and a huge shout-out to Frances McDormand for making us aware of what an “inclusion rider” is (see below) – but there are times you wince at the solemn, self-congratulatory air of it all. Everyone is so hell-bent on making a political statement that cinema seems to get left behind, as was evident in the Best Foreign Film statuette going to A Fantastic Woman (Una mujer fantástica). As subjective as these evaluations are, I felt the film won simply because of what it was about (the experiences of a trans woman) than how it was about it. In other words, politics trumped cinema.

Which is why I think it’s a good time to remember an era when cinema could be unapologetically apolitical, and it was possible to take up a controversial story without the fear of a massive (social) media backlash. I’m talking about a film like Louis Malle’s 1971 drama, Murmur of the Heart (Le souffle au cœur), which is, without doubt, the least judgemental film ever made about incest. The story is about a teenager named Laurent (Benoît Ferreux), one of three brothers, who is diagnosed with scarlet fever and is left with the titular condition. While in a sanatorium, he is cared for by his mother, Clara (Lea Massari, the star of Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura and Sergio Leone’s gloriously trashy first film, a sword-and-sandal epic named The Colossus of Rhodes). One thing leads to another and… incest.

The premise is far more scandalous than the picturisation. It’s not some passionate affair so much as an accidental episode, after an inebriated Bastille Day celebration. There’s very little nudity: a bra being unhooked, some nuzzling. And post the event, we get this remarkable exchange. Clara says, “I don’t want you to be unhappy or ashamed or sorry. We’ll remember it as a very beautiful and solemn moment that will never happen again.” Laurent hugs her tightly, not like a man who’s just made love but like a little boy clutching his mama. He asks, “What’s going to happen now?” Clara says, “Nothing. We’ll never mention it again. It’ll be our secret. I’ll remember it without remorse, tenderly. Promise you’ll do the same.” The mother is not judged. The son is not pitied. The happening itself is not portrayed as anything too out of the ordinary.

Continued at the link above.

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