The small-scale French drama LA SEPARATION looks closely at a professional married couple's break-up. Though realistically executed, the imbalance in point-of-view diminishes the overall impact.
Pierre (Daniel Auteuil) and Anne (Isabelle Huppert) have been married for several years, and have a two-year-old son named Louis (Louis Vincent) and nicknamed LouLou. But Pierre, a commercial artist, and Anne, a business executive, find a void developing in their relationship. Their petty
disagreements often turn into all-out fights, even around their best friends, Claire (Karin Viard) and Victor (Jerome Deschamps).
One night after a party, Anne tells Pierre that she is in love with another man. Oddly, Pierre accepts the news calmly, hoping that Anne's happiness with her lover will spill over into their souring relationship. Yet, as Anne continues her affair, Pierre becomes increasingly jealous and cruel.
Still, Anne insists on living in the same apartment, because she does not want to leave LouLou.
Finally, Anne announces she wants a divorce and takes LouLou to her mother's. Pierre responds by attacking Anne violently, then getting a divorce lawyer. Anne and Pierre reunite briefly at a bar to discuss who will keep the apartment. After some reminiscing, Pierre agrees to move out. Later, a
desolate Pierre walks the streets, feeling lost.
Here is yet another variation on Bergman's seminal SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE (1974), although, in many ways, Robert Benton's KRAMER VS. KRAMER (1979) seems to be the greater inspiration (even the apartment set looks the same). Like KRAMER, this disintegration-of-a-marriage drama follows the husband's
point-of-view, from the opening shots as he videotapes LouLou drooling in his crib to the closing moments where he wanders the boulevards of the city. The problem with this narrow focus is that it leaves many questions unanswered about the wife's behavior (we never even see "the other man"), and
almost turns her into a stereotypical shrew. Pierre's violent outburst becomes all the more disturbing, since the viewer has been mainly encouraged to empathize with him all along.
Fortunately, LA SEPARATION overcomes some of this major dramatic weakness through the accomplished work of the filmmakers. Director Christian Vincent (LA DISCRETE) adapts co-writer Dan Franck's novel with a skillful naturalism, allowing minute details to add to the sense of doom about the
relationship. Vincent also integrates a level of ironic and suspenseful reflexivity by showing Pierre and Anne at the cinematheque watching Rossellini's EUROPA '51 (a.k.a. THE GREATEST LOVE, 1952), in which a married couple (Ingrid Bergman, Alexander Knox) discover that their son has committed
On a technical level, Denis Lenoir's cinematography sharply emphasizes the tight, restricted spaces, neither glamorizing the characters nor the Paris setting. Best of all, Huppert and Auteuil invest each of their scenes with an honest emotional intensity. With so many gaps in her character's
prehistory and development, Huppert deserves particular commendation for her nuanced work, making Anne a much more dimensional person than what must have appeared on paper. Clearly, LA SEPARATION never meant to flesh out all the details of this marriage (in the tradition of Bergman's film), yet a
few more key scenes might have turned this drama into a powerhouse. (Violence, extreme profanity.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1994
- Rating: NR
- Review: The small-scale French drama LA SEPARATION looks closely at a professional married couple's break-up. Though realistically executed, the imbalance in point-of-view diminishes the overall impact. Pierre (Daniel Auteuil) and Anne (Isabelle Huppert) have bee… (more)