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The Lover by Marguerite Duras (L’Amant)

The power of love and love as power

I don’t know about you, but usually if I have read a book, I won’t watch the film version and vice versa.

Having said that, there are, as always, exceptions to the rule.

The Lover (L’Amant in original language) by Marguerite Duras is an autobiographical novel. It covers the author’s illicit relationship (as a schoolgirl) with a much older wealthy Chinese man during her student days in French Indo-China (today’s Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos).

It is a touching and turbulent coming of age tale of love, discovery, familial expectations and obligations, sexual exploration, truth and denial that is recounted through an elevated otherworldly visual expression.

It just so happened that I had read the book, in French, while still at school (and found it to be candidly revealing, sometimes raw and disturbing but beautifully erotic and deeply touching).

Unknowingly, many years later, I saw the movie (English version) starring Jane March and Tony Leung Ka-fai. Only when I saw the author’s name on the screen did I make the connection.

To describe this exquisite cinematographic experience won’t be enough (you must simply see it) but I will give it a whirl.

The colors are muted and quasi textural (oatmeal, sand, granite, brown, cream, pale pink and diaphanous blue) creating a softness and vintage romantic quality. Closeups and tight shots are a slow moving caress that will leave you tremulous with expectation and emotion.

This movie is poignant, elegant and sensual. Haunting melodies accompany the audience along the Mekong river, inside the lovers’ bed and through muddy plains; the music speaking to us of profoundly felt pain, love and loss.

In fact, the soundtrack, to me, is evocative of the musical score of Ennio Morricone in another wonderful little jewel of a film entitled Cinema Paradiso. This is music so expressive and beautiful that it literally hurts.

As I don’t want to spoil this for anyone who hasn’t seen the movie, I can only say that you must have Kleenex nearby. You will, for the next two hours, find yourself in 1929 Saigon inside the head and heart of a teenage French girl with braids and a wealthy beautiful Chinese gentleman and it will touch you deeply.

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