Quick recap: Laurent is a 15 year old boy who desperately wants to lose his virginity(don’t they all?).IMDb describes this movie as a ‘jolly coming of age story’, which I totally agree with, except for the incest.
Fun (?) fact: Director Louis Malle says the movie is mostly autobiographical, except for the sexual relations with his mother. What a relief!
My thoughts: So, Murmur of the Heart is a French film. I feel like it’s important to point this out because I just don’t believe something like this would’ve ever been ok to American audiences. When looking at it from my perspective as an American girl, every scene seemed outrageous- from the young boys smoking, to the priest coming on to Laurent, and of course, the incest. But maybe if I had been French, only the last scene would’ve been shocking. I recognize that a different culture is at play here so there is no point in judging that, but it’s also impossible to ignore my natural bias.
For starters, I never really warmed up to the character of Laurent. Once again, it might be my bias, but I could never identify with him. Through the entirety of the film, I felt like I was watching something that wasn’t meant for me. As a girl, I have my own share of stories of what it was like in high school as I matured and the awkwardness of it all. And how intimidating it was when I got to college and it felt like all of the guys had so much more experience than I did. But then while watching this movie I realized that a boy going through puberty was no walk in the park, either. For Laurent, it was even more rough having two older brothers constantly pushing him to lose his virginity. It was one of those moments where I felt like I was going ‘behind the scenes’ and entering into a world I knew nothing about.
Everyone seemed to have a relaxed attitude about sex in the film, which once again, seemed shocking to me but might be the norm elsewhere. The second half of the movie takes place in a sanitarium where Laurent recovers from a heart murmur (get it?!? He had a legit medical condition but it was also his symbolic heart! So. Deep). Although he had suspected it, he learns that his mother is having an affair and he wishes her good luck in the endeavor. When she leaves for a couple of days to spend time with her lover, Laurent turns even less likable. There is one girl that he has set his sights on but when she rejects him he calls her a lesbian and becomes upset. Her parents witness the whole thing and even though they seemed offended they didn’t even have him thrown out. Then in a later scene, during Bastille Day, Laurent is back to talking to the girl. He continues to say offensive things and tries to kiss her, but she never really gets too angry about the whole thing. It was as if everyone had the attitude of ‘boys will be boys’.
And finally, we come to the scene with Laurent and his mother. I think the less said about it the better, although I will mention how grateful I was that the entire encounter was only implied and nothing was shown. After it is over, Laurent’s mother tells him that she will think of the time fondly, but that it will never happen again. Laurent seems satisfied by this and I guess the whole thing gave him courage because he ends up sneaking out and having sex with some girl. When he comes back into the room the next morning, he sees his entire family waiting on him. His father talks sternly to him at first but then everyone bursts out laughing, and the movie (thankfully) ends.
Final review: 2/5. On a positive note, I’ve been learning French and was quite pleased to recognize about 10 different words during the movie.
Up next: Kiss me Deadly