Written by Stéphane Brizé and Florence Vignon (from novel by Eric Holder)
Cinematography by Antoine Héberlé
Editing by Anne Klotz
Original music by Ange Ghinozzi
Cast: Vincent Lindon, Sandrine Kiberlain, Aure Atika
France, 2009, Kino Lorber, 35mm, color, 101 min.
French with English subtitles
Read program notes (coming soon)
In a small town in southeastern France, Jean and Anne-Marie seem to have a perfect life. They have a bright young son Jeremy, who obviously loves his parents. Jean is a hard-working home builder/remodeler, who has provided his family a lovely home and garden. They go to the countryside for idyllic picnics. Into this Eden comes, not a snake, but Jeremy’s shy, self-effacing teacher, Veronique Chambon. She invites Jean to come to his son’s class to tell the children about his job, so they can learn about possible futures for themselves. Then she asks him to look at a drafty balcony door in her apartment, a request which leads to his accepting the day-job of putting in new doors. As he works, he notices a photo of her holding a violin. Once finished, he asks that she play something. Reluctantly and with her back to Jean, she plays a most beautiful, wistful tune by Ferenc von Vecsey and strikes something deep within the man’s heart.
Their subsequent affair unfolds in a slow and believable way. Veronique is a sensitive soul, apparently held in low esteem by her mother. Mlle. Chambon stays in each school only a year and then moves on to another town, purposely wandering and getting attached to no one, no place. There is a tragic air about her life – no longer playing violin in public, perhaps not of concert-quality or lacking the self-assurance. One can almost be glad that this sad woman is having a brief affair, but then she begins considering the possibility of staying on in this town another year – obviously for one reason only – Jean. That possibility complicates everything. Jean and Anne-Marie’s lovely home is in danger of being wrecked by a most unlikely woman.
Director Stéphane Brizé and co-screenwriter Florence Vignon adapted the novel by French author Eric Holder and shifted more of the focus onto Jean and his family life, but with Veronique Chambon slowly becoming a haunting presence. By this emphasis on Jean, we lament what will be lost if the affair continues. This is a very deftly handled depiction of adultery in a small town, perfectly portrayed by actors who know how to use subtle facial expressions and body language, with a minimum of words. Adding to the tension between Jean and Veronique is the fact that Vincent Lindon and Sandrine Kiberlain were actually married at one time, but were separated by the time they agreed to act in MADEMOISELLE CHAMBON.