3 Hearts (2014)
A breath of fresh air for troubled romance stories everywhere, 3 Coeurs — otherwise known as 3 Hearts — is the story of Marc Beaulieu (Benoît Poelvoorde), a middle aged man working at the tax office in Paris. On a routine visit to a provincial town, Marc misses the last train, which leaves him stressed and short of breath, with little option other than to retreat to a nearby café. It is here he meets a woman, dark and mysterious: Marc, enchanted by her and completely transfixed, takes a bold move and asks her for a cigarette. The two smoke and walk through the night, eventually watching the sunrise over the hills by the village and, without knowing each other’s names, arrange to meet again. On that particular day, the woman (Charlotte Gainsbourg) — whose name is Sylvie — drops everything, leaving her whole life behind and tells no one where she is headed. Marc, however, runs late after a difficult meeting with a client and, in his frantic rush to reach Sylvie, suffers from a mild heart attack and is therefore unable to make the meeting point on time. Following the failed reunion, Sylvie returns to her former life, eventually moving on, finding someone else and re-locating to the United States. Some time passes and Marc meets Sophie Berger (Chiara Mastroianni), a financially unorganized young woman who runs an antique shop; the pair fall in love and begin a happy life together. Alas, Marc soon discovers that the woman he ‘missed out on’ all those years ago is in fact Sophie’s older sister, Sylvie Berger.
Directed by Benoît Jacquot, Farewell, My Queen (2012), this feature promises to be the ‘love-triangle’ that haunts the French film industry like an over-cooked steak. And that is exactly what this film is not. While yes, it still has all the classic clichés a ‘ménage a trois’ style French film has to offer, 3 Hearts attempts to give audiences that special ingredient, something that only a French flick could endeavor to serve. With unique cinematography, soundscape and an interpretation of the genre that is rarely seen, 3 Hearts provides that extra hint of spice, sprucing up the whole viewing experience.
The first thing one notices within 3 Hearts is its soundtrack. Atmospheric, juxtaposed and often over the top, it smacks you right in the face. At times it seems as though the audio cues and musical score almost belong in a horror/ thriller type picture, with a main theme being somewhat reminiscent of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws (1975). The film’s sound design creates an environment in which the viewer is immediately immersed, one that is instantaneously engaging and yet completely baffling. The music indicates how the audience should feel, while often providing conflicting images, which only aids in delivering the true intentions behind this picture. The next prevailing element in 3 Hearts is its unique camera work; put simply, the film’s photography is interesting to say the least. The shots and cinematic choices are entertaining in themselves. Filmic techniques such as oddly timed cuts, ridiculous pans and wacky, offbeat angles sweeten a pic that would otherwise resemble Aunty May’s Christmas turkey; dry and charred. Much like the feature’s audio component, these bold creative visuals provide emotion and mood to the overall production — be it comic and light hearted, to straight and deadly serious — and assist in establishing the outlandish tone of the flick.
The respective performances given by the cast heighten an otherwise monotonous premise — from the palpable sense of magnetism between leads Benoît Poelvoorde, Coco Before Chanel (2009), Charlotte Gainsbourg, Melancholia (2011), and Chiara Mastroianni, Love Songs (2011), to the strong talented support players — it’s the little things, the quirks of the characters and their eccentricities, that truly add a real charm and warmth to the picture. Especially when it comes to Catherine Deneuve, Belle de Jour (1967), who plays Madame Berger, being the predominant comic relief in the piece; she is the stereotypical mother — over feeding, over loving and, of course, all seeing. Deneuve injects so much color into her various segments, bubbly and yet sinister, it is by no accident that she appears center screen in each of her scenes.
So much comes from the normality of this story, the mundane life of Marc and his wife. Their romance is not whirlwind sweeping, it is slow growing, and this ‘truth’ supplies an abundance of personality to the narrative, making it an unrivaled stand-out in the sea of French romances that drown new cinema. The film’s clever style and nifty panache allows humor and natural drama to emerge, as one begins to question what the characters ‘could have been’ and what they will now ‘ultimately become,’ making 3 Hearts a commanding entry within the overstuffed romance genre.
4 / 5 – Recommended
Reviewed by Kathryn Snowball
3 Hearts is released through Madman Entertainment Australia