WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS!
Hello, beautiful humans out there,
A few weeks ago I shared a poll on Instagram asking whether you wanted the new blog post to be about "Le Bonheur" (1965) by Agnes Varda or "La Haine" (1995) by Mathieu Kassovitz. In these utterly strange times, everyone seems to gravitate towards what is cheerful and comforting, so the choice between Happiness and Hate seemed to be easy...But I warned you to be careful!
Because, surprise surprise, Varda's Le Bonheur (The Happiness) is anything but cheerful! The title, together with the visuals made of bright colours, nature, and flowers, intentionally hides some bitter irony.
The film starts with a family of four - a young couple and their two children - living a simple and joyful life. As a viewer, their life was so regular and perfect that to me became boring pretty soon. However, I am not sure how to explain this in terms of storytelling choices but, from the very beginning, I had the gut feeling that the man was going to cheat.
Maybe because it is a French film from the 60s, and French films from the 60s despise happy endings?
Anyway, guess what!
The man falls in love with a younger, beautiful woman. Well, nothing new here, just a predictable and played out storyline. Something that surprised me, though, is how he acted afterwards. Unlike the cheating characters in most films, he did not try to hide it from his wife and did not blame anything on her. He certainly loved and cared for her and tried to communicate with her openly and honestly. He argued that "the love given to someone else did not take away any of the love he felt for her". As much as we can agree or disagree with him, he looked peculiarly genuine in stating that. I don't believe the character was meant to be written as a liar or a bastard: in his heart, he probably really believed things could work out that way.
[WARNING: BIG SPOILER]
The wife seemed to accept the situation, but then she took her own life.
Although most of us can relate to the disappointment of someone who devoted her life to her lover and sees herself put aside, some points left me embittered.
First, she spent years to achieve her dream to grow a happy family, but it took her just a few hours to decide to leave everything behind and abandon her children. As much as I understand impulsiveness, I find it very hard to accept this scenario when kids are involved. And, since she drowned herself - which is quite a slow process, she actually had the time to change her mind and decide to live for her kids. It can become the base for a fired discussion about rights and morals, but here I will keep it much simpler: Is it really worth it? To give up everything you have always dreamed of and worked for, without even trying to fix it first, when something doesn't go as planned?
However, the ending partially answered the question and left me even more numb and void. Right after the wife died, the mistress replaced her in that very family she spent a lifetime building. And I wish the message of this film was "no matter the pain and loss you go through, life needs to go on". But, in this case, life went on so easily for them that the only message I can read is "no matter who you are and what you do, you are meaningless and replaceable".
And so, the answer to what is worth doing or not is simple:
it does not matter,
unless it matters to you.
Four by Agnes Varda
La Pointe Courte - Cleo from 5 to 7 - Le Bonheur - Vagabond
by Criterion Collection
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Susan E. Kavanagh
Artist and cinema geek.