(Release Info London schedule; Februar 5th, 2021, Curzon Home Cinema)
The story of a 'simple passion', that of Hélène August's (Laetitia Dosch) passion for Alexandre Svitsin (Sergei Poluniv), a young Russian diplomat, whom she barely knows, whom she nevertheless sees with the same intensity each time they meet. Since last September she waits for him to call her and come to her place. Everything about him is so precious to her, his eyes, his mouth, his childhood memories, his voice.
The character of Hélène seems to be astonished by this state of siege, at once sweet and insidious. Pure dopamine. A drug, really. Hélène is an unfettered, free-spirited, woman. A mature, self-assured woman. Ultimately, she's a woman who submits herself out of love. But it's her decision. This is how we've to see the story of 'Passion Simple'; from a voluntary, not a victim’s viewpoint. Alexandre represents a free man, with a complex and elusive personality. He's the objectified man in the film. It's a complex vision of woman, the character is not a model of independence, because she's completely addicted to this man. And she's a bright woman, on top of that, who raises her son alone, who teaches literature at 'The Sorbonne', and yet she says that for a whole year, the only thing that mattered to her is this man. The protagonist waits for her lover anywhere, not only at home, thanks to today’s new technologies, to cell phones. So that she can wait for him anywhere in the world, even though the world is shrinking around her because all she ever does is wait for him. Yet she's always active and wanting, even if she submits herself to that man’s desire. To be an object of desire, to desire, to wait, to fantasise, isn't it the antithesis of an independent woman? It's a sexual film. Filming bodies is a way to glamorize characters. Characters who are comfortable with their own bodies. In the film, the evolution of their passion follows that of the choreography of their bodies.
The film is based on Annie Ernaux’s 90s' bookseller 'Passion Simple'. It established a perfect and precise picture of passionate love. It inspires you with a lot of courage. Her words make you want to be honest without being ashamed. They give you the energy to be precise, sincere, not sappy. You've to dig really deep into your own neuroses to understand Annie Ernaux to the full extent. And when these neuroses are looked by a filmmaker who infuses passion with some radiant energy, then it's pure bliss. The ultimate power of the book is that it doesn’t try to explain things. Passion probably involves a will to submit yourself to the other person, either a man or a woman, and to put your whole self into it. Moral judgement has nothing to do with it. It's really brave to explore so meticulously female desire, passion, that place where there's freedom but at the same time a total dependence on the other person. It's scary. We've to understand where it’s coming from. We don’t judge her. It's a story about how lucky you're when you fall in love. About the emotional rollercoaster it actually is. The absolute loss of control when you meet someone, when you idealize that person.
The film sparks off a debate around the issue of feminism. With today’s 'MeToo' climate, of course, But it's a precious thing that there are so many different visions of woman in films, that some might arouse controversy, or bring out tensions. The worse thing would be to have women who are all similar, to have everybody agreeing, it would mean that we've left a norm only to confine ourselves to another. We do not want to see only models of flawless independent women. The situation is interesting because it's vertiginous. Beyond morality, neither black nor white.