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Isild Le Besco,
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The slightly kleptomanic 29-year-old Mathilde is experiencing strange swoonings since a few days. There she encounters a mysterious doctor who treats her with hypnosis therapy. As she gets better her husband Nico does not. He even has problems recognizing his wife, especially when she has an orgasm while in bed with him. So he also goes to a psychiatrist, but the therapy does not seem to work... Written by
Marco Radke <email@example.com>
The balance and maintenance of a (married) life in order -- story of a young French woman's release from her inner restrains -- a quiet triumph
At the beginning of the movie, we see this young lanky woman, carefreely dressed in jeans, scarf'd and loose coat, walking down a city street very much like New York, entering a store which reminded me of Meg Ryan's in "You've Got Mail" (1998), and then a kleptomaniac gesture almost reminded me of (Robin Tunney in) "Niagara, Niagara" (1998) -- enough stray thoughts, this is a French film and very French it is.
It's not Isabelle Huppert or Miou-Miou or Fanny Ardant. It's Sandrine Kiberlain who portrays the main character in focus. She's cool and slender. There's a certain calmness to her in spite of the struggling repressed feelings underneath -- quite a performance Kiberlain delivered. It all felt so casual -- that 's how French it is, yet full of nuances and sensitivity.
The way the characters and events presented to us is like we are watching them in an ingenuous video setting -- no glamor, no fanfare, just everyday flavor, tout naturel. Seems like just another ordinary day in the life of this young woman: she looks in on her mother, she goes home, she instructs the babysitter, she picks up a book on "What is hypnosis?" "Doing nothing all day," she answers her doctor husband Nico. She is Mathilde. She seems to have occasional fainting spells. She's kind of taking time off from the law office where she helps her mother, who's heading the business after the death of Mathilde's father. No, this is not complicated -- it's just supporting details to this young woman's story.
Mathilde met a man, le docteur, who took her to a restaurant, where he ordered and enjoyed his escargot afternoon delight while asking Mathilde questions about her childhood, family history, and he brought up the subject of "Feng Shui" -- the ancient Chinese wisdom of aligning the harmony of Chi (flow of energy) in your surroundings and prompting subtle changes in furniture arrangements, etc. Then there are the hypnosis sessions, and they seem to reveal her insecurities towards the intimate relationship with her husband (portrayed by Vincent Lindon). This brought to mind Lance Young's 1997 "Bliss" (mature audiences only) with Sheryl Lee and Craig Sheffer as the young couple and Terence Stamp as the intimacy psychotherapist, who took them through step by step (poignant intimacy enhancement) lessons. In "Seventh Heaven", less explicit, the issues of a young couple trying to gain or regain their intimate tenderness between a husband and wife is also explored. It shows unabashedly the "challenged" manhood feelings vs. the female fulfillment; it illustrates the importance of intercourse in both its meanings.
There is a small part played by a young boy as their son Etienne -- a light relieving element used to bridge Mathilde and Nico's relationship. "Septieme ciel, Le" does not shout to get your attention -- it quietly beckons. It serenely invites you to reflect on the facets of a married relationship presented here in this subtly wonderful gem of a film.
Christian Vincent's 1994 "La Separation" is another French film that deals with the relationship between a man and a woman with a young son. Isabelle Huppert and Daniel Auteuil are paired as the couple striving to rise above their strained relationship. The tension in "La Separation" is taut and almost at a "hard to breathe" level. Again, it's French milieu, and every happening and the way the characters go about whatever they're doing, even the way they walk -- seemed ordinarily everyday life yet so intensely interesting without Hollywood elements. It's not a cheery subject (NFE), yet Huppert and Auteuil's paired performance is terrific to watch. Philip Saville's 1997 "Metroland" is a British-French approach to depicting and exploring a young married couple's (Christian Bale and Emily Watson) relationship maintenance issues.
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