I like film that seemed to be about love but it actually is not. Wong Kar Wai’s Happy Together which was about falling out of love and Ira Sachs’ Keep The Lights On which was about obsession of the idea of love, immediately comes to mind as an example of the particular category. Xavier Dolan’s sophomore directorial works, Les Amours Imaginaires which loosely translated as Heartbeats (US/Europe title), conveniently falls into the same category. Letterboxd and IMDb summarize the film a story of three close friends who are involved in a love triangle. Believe you me.. no such triangle exist in the film
Francis (Xavier Dolan) and Marie (Monia Chokri) are two best friend who met Nicholas (Niels Schneider) at a dinner party, both are feigning disinterest. And soon their feelings for Nicholas started to put a strain on their friendship. This is definitely not a love story, rather it’s about infatuations (an extreme borderline psychotic obsession case of it) that both Francis and Marie had towards the curly, golden-locked Nicholas. The french title Les Amours Imaginaires literal translation are Imaginary Loves (or Imagined Love, as the international title suggest), a more fitting description of the story than what the english title suggest.
Nicolas: You have a big bed, right?
Francis: Yeah, I have a double bed. You want to sleep here, you can, we’ll just… We’ll just squeeze in.
Nicolas: Thanks, man.
Marie: I do not like to sleep in the middle.
Francis: I hate the middle, too.
Nicolas: No sweat. I like the middle.
The film opens and later will interspersed with interview-style footages of various people as they recount their own misfortune at love and relationships. These interviews goes with the theme with the film as we heard various interviewee talk about their experiences and their expectation and idealized concept of love and being in love. Marie and Francis infatuation towards Nicholas were sparked by the very same idea, the idealized concept of being in love. This is something that supposed to be accessible to anyone who was ever smitten, probably not to the same degree like Marie and Francis. But have you never bought a ridiculous such as purchasing an obscenely expensive cashmere sweater for his/her birthday, or dressed up like Audrey Hepburn because your crush mentioned her name once in passing? Nicholas is a grandiose delusion for the two best friend, clouded their better judgement and merely exists as a fantasy object for the two.
Compared to his feature film, J’ai Tué Ma Mère, Dolan approach the theme of the film by using heavier visual imagery and stylistic approach. Dolan plays with vivid colors and patterns, dressing up the actors, the scene, the mood, with heavy handed styling. I think it complements the both Marie and Francis, both are trying so hard to impress Nicolas by putting more beautified facade (sometimes a hugely ridiculous amount) and exuding faux persona. They made themselves into something they are not. Slow motions are employed to capture minute gestures and enhance the mood a scene is trying to exude and amplified with accompaniment of musical scores, including the iconic 1940s ‘Bang Bang‘ by Dalida. Dolan delivers brilliant scene that gave strong impression even without dialogue, instead using gestures and body language, exhibiting an improvement in his writing as well as directing.
Heartbeats premiered and competed in Un Certain Regards section and became the winner the Regards Jeunes Prize of 2010 Cannes Film Festival. It is also the recipient of several awards and nominations in various international film festival across the globe. Despite getting a lot of jab about being style over substance, Heartbeats is actually my personal favorite of Dolan. Stylistic approach enhance the intriguing yet deceptively simple premise of the film, yet conveys its emotional intimacy, through seductive imagery. I found myself craving for more and so deeply infatuated by Les Amours Imaginaires.
LES AMOURS IMAGINAIRES / HEARTBEATS (2010)
GENRE Romance, Drama
DIRECTOR Xavier Dolan | PRODUCER Xavier Dolan, Carole Mondello, Daniel Morin | WRITER Xavier Dolan | MUSIC Sylvain Brassard | CINEMATOGRAPHER Stéphanie Weber-Biron | EDITOR Xavier Dolan | STUDIO Mifilifilms | DISTRIBUTOR Remstar, IFC Films | COUNTRY Canada | RELEASE September 29, 2010 (French) | RUNNING TIME 101 minutes | BUDGET CAD $600,000
STARRING Monia Chokri, Niels Schneider, Xavier Dolan, Anne Dorval