Murmur of the Heart (1971) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • As France is nearing the end of the first Indochina War, an open-minded teenage boy finds himself torn between a rebellious urge to discover love, and the ever-present, almost dominating affection of his beloved mother.

  • 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.

  • A coming of age story set in the 1950s where a young teenager, Laurent Chevalier, learns about life with help from his older brothers and his mother Clara. As the youngest in the family Laurent is alternately smothered with affection or roundly ignored. His brothers take him out drinking in a club-brothel where he also loses his virginity. Things get a bit more complicated however when he and his mother go on holiday.

  • Dijon, 1954. France is nearing the end of the first Indochina War, or the so-called "dirty" war, and the open-minded fifteen-year-old son of a wealthy gynaecologist, Laurent, enjoys a normal life. Favoured by his mother, the sensitive boy has acquired a taste for Jazz music, reading, and politics, as Laurent is on the brink of a great change in his life. Driven by his ever-growing curiosity--Laurent, a Catholic schoolboy living under strict laws and regulations--will soon find the way to self-awareness, and love, as he experiences the thrill of his first kiss; of course, under his mother's ever-watchful eye. In the end, when will this boy who is so closely attached to his mother, become a man?


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Laurent Chevalier is a nearly 15-year-old boy living in Dijon in 1954, who loves jazz, always receives the highest grades in his class and who opposes the First Indochina War. He has an unloving father who's a gynecologist and an affectionate Italian mother, Clara, as well as two older brothers, Thomas and Marc. One night, Thomas and Marc take Laurent to a brothel, where Laurent loses his virginity to a prostitute before they are disrupted by his drunken brothers. Upset, he leaves on a scouting trip, where he catches scarlet fever and is left with a heart murmur.

    After Laurent is bedridden and cared for and entertained by Clara and their maid Augusta, he and Clara check into a hotel while he receives treatment at a sanatorium. He takes interest in two young girls at the hotel, Helene and Daphne, and also spies on his mother in the bathtub. Clara temporarily leaves with her lover, but comes back distraught after their breakup, and is comforted by her son. After a night of heavy drinking on Bastille Day, Laurent and Clara have sex. Clara tells him afterwards that this incest won't be repeated, but that they shouldn't look back on it with remorse. Afterwards, Laurent leaves their room, and after unsuccessfully trying to seduce Helene, spends the night with Daphne.

    Jazz music by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, along with books by Bataille, Proust and Camus, feature prominently in the film.

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