Sunday 13 September 2020

Murmur of the Heart (Le Souffle au Coeur) (1971)

Uroligt hjerte 

I sometimes get annoyed with movies, probably too often, and some movies disgust me, but it is rare that a movie shocks me. In fact, I usually associate that reaction with prudes affecting some righteous indignation at what they what they see as inproper behavior. For once though I feel shaken watching a movie. More about that later.

"Le souffle au Coeur" (Murmur of the Heart) is the first movie on the list by French director Louis Malle. The only movie of his that I know is “Au revoir les enfant”, but Louis Malle was apparently a productive director. “Le souffle au coeur” is supposed to be one of his happy movies.

Laurent (Benoit Ferreux) is a 15-year-old boy with two older brothers, a wealthy gynecologist father, Charles (Daniel Gèlin) and a youthful mother, Clara (Lea Massari). Laurent is bookish and smart in school and interested in reading and jazz music, yet frequently steals, is rude and get in trouble, highly encouraged by his, frankly, annoying brothers.

We follow Laurent around in what seems to be an aimless plot. The only recurring theme is Laurent’s struggle, or rather obsession, with sex. I know, as well as any other who has been a teenager, how much the hormones are going bananas at that age, but Laurent is really all over the place. It does not help of course that his priest-teacher is obviously a pedophile, flirting with Laurent or that his brothers take him to visit a prostitute.

Laurent clearly has the idea that hitting on girls is his male duty and the best way to do it is simply to jump into it and kiss them, so this he does with gusto. To his surprise the girls are generally not excited about his approach. In fact, this whole sex and love thing seems to confuse Laurent quite a bit. This could be funny, and I suppose to some it is. To me it seemed rather sad.

The icky part is that Laurent is madly in love with his mother who in return is doting on him. For the second half of the movie Laurent is installed on a sanatorium to recover from what sounds like a cold together with his mother. The sanatorium is very exclusive and look more like a 1950’es holiday resort where you get well from drinking their mysterious water and otherwise eat fancy food, play tennis and party. Alone with his mother, Laurent’s infatuation becomes more of a sexual fascination, which turns to jealousy when the mother has an affair with some random stranger, even elopes with him for a few days. The culmination is Laurent having sex with his mother after the Bastille day festivities.

Okay, this is where I jumped off and I am not certain what happened after that and I do not really care. When the Book wrote that the incestuous relationship caused trouble but that it was presented as a beautiful thing, I had not thought that this was what I would be watching. Call me a prude, but parents having sex with their children is where I draw the line. Basta.

Disregarding this horrific conclusion, I cannot say that I enjoyed the movie much. It took me some time to work out that there was not much else to the movie than a teenage boy’s sexual confusion. I failed to sympathize with Laurent, I simply could not recognize much in him, and his family, especially his brothers, was not nice. The only thing I actually did enjoy was the large amount of jazz music in the score. Charlie Parker I believe it was.

I cannot honestly recommend this movie. For once I believe the critics were right. This one crosses the line.     


  1. "Horrific conclusion" puts it mildly. How vile. Just...ick.

    1. Indeed. I do not have words for how horrible that was.