Murmur of the Heart (Le souffle au coeur)

Murmur of the Heart

…A very beautiful and solemn moment, that will never happen again.

It appears the list has a bit of a love-love affair with coming-of-age films. This time, we have the French production Murmur of the Heart, a film by Louis Malle. At first glance, this would seem to be just another coming-of-age film, and for most of the running time, it pretty much is. Sure, it’s French, so there’s a bit of a different flavor compared with American coming-of-age films, but not by much. Plus, the list also has Wild Reeds, which is also French, not to mention iconic films of the genre like The 400 Blows and even Malle’s own later film Au Revoir Les Enfants, so it begs the question as to why this one is also here. Don’t expect me to give you a good answer to that, though.

The film follows Laurent Chevalier, a 15-year-old growing up in the mid-1950s in France, and tracks the regular topics that coming-of-age films that focus on single individuals tend to track; familial relationships, burgeoning sexuality, and uncertainty of what one wants to be and make of the world. Special mention should be made of the second of those three; where other coming-of-age films try and keep the scope broad, covering everything that defines that particular generation’s toils and tribulations of growing up, Murmur of the Heart decides to only dabble in the other areas, and instead focuses mainly on the young Laurent’s ever-expanding desires of the flesh, as a creepy pastor Laurent studies under puts it. The film is completely unremarkable, indistinguishable from any and every other film of its kind, until the topic of sex comes up, to which Murmur of the Heart says, “Oh, you other films; you only go so far? Well, I guess I’ll have to go that much farther.” Laurent, for instance, seems to have a more than familiar relationship with his mother, as they coddle and lavish each other with affection, and, if you don’t mind the mild spoilers, it all leads up to an episode of incest between the two, which is then shrugged off by both characters, as the film ends less than ten minutes afterwards. It was an unusually focused approach to the whole coming-of-age thing, and the film was a little less than it should’ve been as a result.

I guess I’ve just grown tired of the whole “young people/person growing up” genre that the list seems to love so much. Aside from the unnerving focus on the sexual aspects of growing up, I didn’t see very much to this one. The film itself was alright, decently made, and with a fair amount of charm. But in this late period in my quest, I was looking for something special, something uniquely exquisite that would justify the running time, and here, I didn’t find much of anything. Really, I’m ending up with exactly the same opinion as my last review; if this is one of the first such films from the list you see, it’ll likely look a little brighter than it did for me.

Arbitrary Rating: 7/10

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