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Murmur of the Heart (1971)
"Le souffle au coeur" (original title)

R  |   |  Comedy, Drama  |  17 October 1971 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.9/10 from 5,869 users  
Reviews: 35 user | 39 critic

This is a jolly coming-of-age story about a 14-year-old boy named Laurent Chevalier who is growing up in bourgeois surroundings in Dijon, France. This is France in the mid-1950s rather than... See full summary »



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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 3 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Clara Chevalier
Benoît Ferreux ...
Laurent Chevalier
Charles Chevalier
Father Henri
Ave Ninchi ...
Gila von Weitershausen ...
Freda (the prostitute)
Fabien Ferreux ...
Marc Winocourt ...
Micheline Bona ...
Aunt Claudine
Henri Poirier ...
Uncle Leonce
Liliane Sorval ...
Corinne Kersten ...
Eric Walter
François Werner ...
René Bouloc ...
Man at Bastille Day party


This is a jolly coming-of-age story about a 14-year-old boy named Laurent Chevalier who is growing up in bourgeois surroundings in Dijon, France. This is France in the mid-1950s rather than America in the 1990s. Thus, Laurent is unharmed by events which would irreparably shatter the self-esteem of a modern American adolescent: he gets drunk, he smokes, he has sex, he is smothered by his mother, he is ignored by his father, a priest makes a pass at him, he gets rheumatoid fever, etc. There's enough scandalous behavior in this film to make 100 made-for-TV movies, and yet this is a very happy and oddly innocent tale. Written by Tim Horrigan <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Drama


R | See all certifications »

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Release Date:

17 October 1971 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Murmur of the Heart  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$1,200,000 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


While the incest aspects of the story were not autobiographical, Louis Malle did in fact end up sharing a hotel room with his mother as a child while on a trip to treat his heart murmur due to "bizarre" circumstances. See more »


In the opening sequence, Laurent and his friend walk the streets collecting money for charity. Laurent's friend's socks are pushed down, but when they decide to "try somewhere else," the shot of the two walking away shows the socks pulled up. In the next shot, they're down again. See more »

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User Reviews

Malle's finest....
9 October 2006 | by See all my reviews

It's high comedy. It's French bourgeois lifestyle. Louis Malle's delicate style of working with taboo subject matter reached a personal plateau with a dysfunctional household in "Murmur of the Heart", an early reach back into his own garden of memories and familial idiosyncrasies that he has stringently plucked from over the years. He approaches it with an innocent intent, cheeky, but still innocent nonetheless. Through the nostalgic and mean-spirited jibes at the domestic help, clergy and stiff-lipped crust of high society, it commences on a journey of an adolescent male, Laurent Chevalier (Benoit Ferreux) in Dijon, France circa 1954. He longs to break free to that stage of enlightened adulthood that seems just within reach but yet so very far. But within its pith, it's the very antithesis of melodrama. Taking on its inviolable subject matter's horns with both hands, it wrangles it to the ground while giving us something to think about. It's definitely not about exorcising ghosts of the past but to let them regale us with stories of unforgettable youth.

After 35 years, "Murmur of the Heart" still rings truer and closer to home than most contemporary comedies (and even dramas) revolving around the "coming of age" and "sexual awakening" in a young teen. It's also more daring and liberal in its construction of key family members being part of that very natural formation of sexual DNA and identity. They discuss philosophy. They discuss suicide. They discuss "The Story of O". Laurent and his 2 older brothers consort in disrespectfully petty behaviour contrary to what their upbringing holds sacred. Laurent's a top student, an intellectual that sees the world around him as a playground. It's a smalltime superiority complex as he defines his sensitive sensibilities with discernment beyond his years and a haughty disregard for divergent thoughts with a self-important air.

Revolving primarily about Laurent and his mother, Clara ("L' avventura's" Lea Massari), it's a refreshing look at a parental relationship based around adoration and fondness (coming under constant mocking by his brothers) than the contemporaneous and contemptuous notion of disdain and rebelliousness surrounding the authority figures and generational gaps. It underlines the idiom of a mother being her son's first love. In its essence, it encapsulates many complicated mother-child relationships including the emotional Oedipal issues that do crop up. And through that, a lovely parallelism is wrought with its interpretation of a woman who wants to be a girl and a boy who wants to be a man.

Conforming to an almost sitcom style, its self-dependent, autonomous scenes and situations just about start to border on farcical proportions. Its characters place sex and carnality high up on a pedestal, while Malle condescendingly films it as something so pedestrian and run-of-the-mill, not worth the hype and excitement over it anyway. He makes the patient, inevitable buildup to a key sex scene that had caused controversy when it was first released, to seem more natural and accepting than he does the sexual encounters that actually do seem the norm in society.

21 of 25 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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