She plays a haunting, romantic Valse Triste by Hungarian composer Franz von Vecsey, and the music awakens something dormant in Jean’s proletarian soul. Shortly afterward, he picks up his father (Jean-Marc Thibault) from his nursing home and accompanies him to the funeral parlor, where the old man wants to pick out his own coffin. If Jean knew any Latin, the words tempus fugit would be rattling around in his brain to the strains of the Valse Triste.
This sense of life as short and locked on an inexorable track with no turnoffs haunts most people at one time or another. When chance brings Jean and Véronique together again, he helps her pick out paint for the new window, and she invites him up to her apartment to lend him a recording of the von Vecsey piece. She puts on a CD, and they listen without speaking, consumed with emotion as gorgeous music washes over and through them, and soon it is not just the throbbing, soaring strains of the violin that are doing the caressing.
But passion aroused is no guarantee of happily ever after. Véronique is from an intellectual Parisian family. Jean is a workingclass artisan, laboring at the same trade his father did, married to a simple, pretty woman, and he’s probably never ventured very far from the small provincial town where he has always lived. Family is important to Jean; Véronique has little to do with hers. She can’t settle in any one place. She works as a substitute teacher and moves every year or so. (You may wonder why a woman in a short-term rental apartment is replacing a window.)
There’s nothing new about this story. There are echoes of Brief Encounter, but the same echoes of irresistible longing roll down through centuries without end. Brizé’s delicate touch conjures up associations with Eric Rohmer’s elegant stories of love’s exquisite agonies, with the eloquence of classical music here substituting for the verbal symphonies of Rohmer’s characters. Substitute other music and you have a country song.
Will the story have a happy ending? And what would be a happy ending? Once the serpent has slithered into the garden, the game is changed. Anne-Marie is aware that something is up, but she can’t get her husband to talk about it.
Even happy endings sometimes have unhappy endings. Lindon and Kiberlain were once married, and they have a daughter together. It may be that this poignant real-life back story gave them reservoirs of emotion from which to draw. In any case, both actors deliver the goods, wordlessly for the most part, as they tap the eloquence of a longing that only music can express.