Eric Rohmer reinvents fairytale with grey cold, charming chattering and the hopes of an ordinary woman. Neither Grimm nor Disney, greedy witch or shallow promise, Rohmer’s magic rests in the day-to-day and a heart’s steadfast belief that something, contrary to rational reasoning, will happen.
Conte d’Hiver (the second of Rohmer’s ‘Tales of Four Seasons’) starts with a magical montage of seaside intimacy between Félicie (Charlotte Véry) and Charles (Frédéric van den Driessche). It’s the summer-holiday dream, and at the end, just like in the days before mobile phones and social media, the two exchange home addresses, with the promise to meet up soon.
Five years later, Félicie is living with her mother and young daughter (Charles is the father) and we learn that due to a confusion of addresses the two haven’t been in touch. Félicie is adamant that she will bump into Charles one day, as she still loves him deeply. And with this ‘love ideal’ in mind, naïve and laughable to most of us, she responds to the two men in her life: Loïc (Hervé Furic) an intellectual, and Maxence (Michel Voletti) who owns the hairdresser at which she works.
We see lots of shots of Félicie sitting on the Metro, wearing a bored and wanting expression. Instead of trudging through fairytale forests of snow, Félicie walks the Paris pavements, coat zipped and hood up, beneath winter drizzling rain.
Félicie is a heroine who likes to change her mind. Rashly deciding it would be a good thing to live with Maxence, she packs her bags and takes her daughter to a small town, where she moves into his apartment above his new salon. Shortly afterwards, following a dispute, she heads back to Paris (a wise move) and re-establishes with Loïc, her other boyfriend. The two discuss love, faith and friendship. These are not ramblings but the mind processes we all go through, figuring out what we want and what we believe.
Throughout Félicie’s indecision and Rohmer’s direction of her unexceptional life, we are seduced by her disarming honesty, and strong inner-conviction. This underpins all her decisions. She is never afraid to admit she has made a mistake and pursue another path. Félicie is free: she is not an intellectual (she gets her vocabulary muddled up), yet what she says is touching and truthful. Rohmer breaks our prejudice and we are opened up to Félicie’s reasoning and find ourselves walking by her side and enjoying her company.
Rohmer seals his fairytale by ensuring Félicie’s dream comes true. The moment takes place on an ordinary bus ride (a scene featuring a cameo from Marie Rivière: during which we wonder if Rohmer has resurrected Delphine from Le Rayon Vert). The reunion with Charles is as powerful to adults as the Prince kissing Sleeping Beauty is to a six year-old.
Is this fate, a reward for robust belief or just chance? It doesn’t matter. Rohmer loses us in dreamland: a down-to-earth, yet extraordinary kind. The best kind.
Director: Eric Rohmer (1992)