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VENICE 2014 Competition

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3 Hearts ablaze, one heart extinguished


- VENICE 2014: In competition at the Mostra, Benoît Jacquot has presented a love triangle with a hint of Greek tragedy, starring Benoît Poelvoorde, Chiara Mastroianni and Charlotte Gainsbourg

3 Hearts ablaze, one heart extinguished

You've got to believe in coincidence – first and foremost the programming coincidence: Belgian actor Benoît Poelvoorde, who is more accustomed to performing in comedies, is appearing in two dramas in competition at Venice, and in The Price of Fame [+see also:
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interview: Xavier Beauvois
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as well as in 3 Hearts [+see also:
film focus
interview: Benoît Jacquot
film profile
, he becomes “seriously” infatuated with Chiara Mastroianni. It's an especially serious business in Benoît Jacquot's film because she weighs down his character Marc's (a tax auditor) fragile heart with an emotional burden that is rather difficult to deal with: after he misses a date with Sylvie (Charlotte Gainsbourg), a one-night stand he's crazy about, Marc meets and takes a liking to her sister Sophie (Mastroianni), completely unaware of the family tie between the two women. Marc moves to the provinces and settles down to live the rest of his life with Sophie, while Sylvie, who knows absolutely nothing about the identity of her brother-in-law, has jetted off to live in the USA with a man she doesn't love. Now, having returned for her sister's wedding, that bolt of passionate lightning is set to strike once again...

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And then there's the coincidence in the screenplay. And why not tell a story like this? After all, fate very often plays practical jokes that are even more cruel than these two chance encounters that are so closely linked. “The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing,” wrote the philosopher Pascal, and it is precisely this maxim that we must take on board if we want to be able to go along with what we see as we follow the characters' motivations, and embrace the tragic dimension of the movie, which is accentuated by a fitting musical accompaniment. Benoît Jacquot doesn't ask too much of his actors, who, through the self-control they show in their acting, allow us to catch a glimpse of their inner conflict. Even the character of the mother, played by Catherine Deneuve, could perhaps seem to be nothing more than a bit part if there were not a profound consideration of what is going on behind the scenes in all her questions and her silent observations. Through an ellipsis, the viewer can readily understand how she is abreast of what is afoot without any needless backup from tearful confessions. 3 Hearts steers clear of using excessive drama. It allows itself to infuse slowly, sometimes with a vocal accompaniment from a narrator, who gives an outline of the time that passes in an unpretentious, dreary and monotonous tone.

In the third act, the film's pace starts to spiral out of control, until it reaches the romantic denouement, which will be hit or miss, according to the affinity that the viewer has built up with the lives of these people, all of whom are simultaneously fragile and strong, all on the brink of breaking open themselves. The narrator slams his hammer down on one of them, leaving us to only imagine what will become of the other two during the dirge-like music that plays over the closing credits.

(Translated from French)

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