Love On The Ground

Love On The Ground

***1/2

Reviewed by: Merlin Harries

L’amour Par Terre’s literal translation to Love On The Ground is apt in the sense that director Jacques Rivette’s picture deals with the nature and implications of love in both a theatrical and realistic sense. Having graduated as a nouvelle vague auteur from Cahiers du cinema, the work of Rivette focuses on the relationship between life and art and how the bond of imitation leads to an interplay of illusion. Love On The Ground proves to be an interesting examination of the process of dramatisation and the consequent interplay when life imitating art provides ample distraction for those involved.

The main characters of actresses Emily (Jane Birkin) and Charlotte (Geraldine Chaplin) are introduced following an apartment-based play where they seek to change the ending of the piece to suit their own tastes. The result of their tampering becomes clear when they meet the writer and director Clémont Roquemaure (Jean-Pierre Kalfon) who invites them to his chateau to experience one of his latest creations, a very personal play based on his own life, for which the third and final act is yet to be written.

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The characterisation of Clémont is suitably outlandish. His play concerns his recently deceased wife and a magician named Paul (André Dussollier). There is a certain degree of gamesmanship carried out by Clémont as he instructs the two women in the play, which he wants to be performed in his home. The overriding visual themes of the picture are steeped in the artistic décor of the director’s home which is quite possibly the film’s greatest illusion of all. The spiralling columns and vivid colours of the chateau are the perfect setting for the play in which a home is also a theatre and the story itself is inextricably bound to the lives of the performers.

The relationship between life and art is the bedrock of the story with a very witty script that has a penchant for trickiness and sophistication. The greatest achievement is perhaps that the far-reaching illusions constructed around the experience of the central characters do not distract from what is an enjoyable film. The combination of both Emily and Charlotte struggling with the changing visions of Clémont’s direction and the added romance that ensues add to the duplicity of the tale.

On differing levels the story can appear both playful and whimsical but the central issue of the acting process is what drives the narrative. How the performers are affected by the piece and the psychological process that animates the interplay between life and art are key questions Rivette addresses. His clear style of direction is felt throughout the picture and the chemistry between Birkin and Chaplin give the picture an added edge with a generally intelligent range of performances from the supporting cast.

Reviewed on: 27 Feb 2008
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Jacques Rivette’s 1980s comedy mystery, where life imitates art.
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Director: Jacques Rivette

Writer: Pascal Bonitzer, Marilù Parolini

Starring: Jane Birkin, Geraldine Chaplin, Jean-Pierre Kalfon, André Dussollier, Isabelle Linnartz, Sandra Montaigu, László Szabó, Eva Roelens, Facundo Bo,

Year: 1984

Runtime: 169 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: France

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