(Release Info London schedule; November 13th, 2020, Curzon Home Cinema)
"Two Of Us"
Two retired women, Madeleine Girard (Martine Chevallier) and Nina Dorn (Barbara Sukowa) live opposite each other in the same building in a small, French provincial town. The narrow corridor separating their homes is convenient, as they spend a lot of time together, way more in fact than anyone suspects. Their affair has been secret for decades, and these two elderly ladies have made detailed plans to spend their old age together abroad. Everybody, including Madeleine’s family, thinks they're simply neighbors, sharing the top floor of their building. They come and go between their two apartments, enjoying the affection and pleasures of daily life together, until an unforeseen event turns their relationship upside down and leads Madeleine’s daughter to gradually unravel the truth about them. To do this, they will have to sell their apartments, but Madeleine hesitates. Family secrets and medical fate appear to be ruining Nina and Madeleine's relationship. Or is it indestructible after all? How is she going to tell her son Frédéric (Jérôme Varanfrain) and daughter Anne (Léa Drucker), who think that their father who died a long time ago was the love of her life?
The film is centered on a couple of women in their seventies who are secretly in love. The two women are widows in their seventies, who warded off loneliness by constantly keeping their doors open and making the landing between them part of an enlarged apartment that covered the whole top floor. The front doors of the two apartments up there are open, and the voices are those of two women talking to each other from their respective apartments. We lingered for a few minutes, unseen and in silence. It really is very intriguing. The protagonists live together in that way, hiding their romantic involvement by appearing to the world to be mere neighbors. Nina and Madeleine conceal their relationship from their families. Life imitating art. The architectural aspect is at the core of the film. The two interconnecting apartments are the protagonists living space and, at the same time, a symbolic place that reflects and expresses their dealings with the outside world.
In Madeleine’s apartment, every detail, every object tells the story of her family. It's coziness constantly reminds us of the burden weighing on her shoulders, the bonds around her, the chains holding her. Nina’s apartment is more mysterious. We only see it later in the movie, just as the character gradually reveals herself. As for the landing, it's the pivotal space between the two apartments. The two front doors, which are always open initially, start to shut, turning this porous space into a kind of border. Those images - open doors, closed doors, seemed a simple and effective metaphor for Nina’s exclusion by Madeleine’s family. The obstacles that stand in their path sometimes lead Nina and Madeleine to extreme behavior. Anne, Madeleine’s daughter is an oppressor. Anne is an incredibly loving daughter who always looked up to her mother as a role model. She would do anything for her, but she's rattled when she finds out that Madeleine has been living a lie. That explains the harshness of her reaction. Each character has light and dark sides.
What inner conflict roils us when confronted with that kind of censorship? The film tells the story of a struggle, the story of a passion that's as obstinate as it's affectionate. But that struggle is also a way to explore issues that fascinates. The inspiration for the complexity of the protagonist's life choices and their inability to completely own them, with regard to their families, come from various people, whose trajectories make a deep impression on us. An eye looking through a peephole, an intruder in the night. The idea is to borrow from the codes of suspense, while reinterpreting them so they sit coherently with the universe of the film.