Sunday, November 18, 2018

Film Recommendation: A Place on Earth (2013)

A love story is rendered tenderly and poignantly in the 2013 French-Belgian drama Une place sur la Terre (released in English-speaking countries as A Place on Earth).  Antoine (Benoît Poelvoorde), a disillusioned photographer, becomes mesmerized listening to a neighbor play a piano sonata.  The neighbor is a beautiful, enigmatic archaeology student named Elena (Ariane Labed).

Antoine becomes obsessed with Elena and secretly photographs her in her apartment.  One night, he sees Elena up on the roof of her building.  She walks spryly along the edge as if she is playing a game.  Then, suddenly, she jumps.  Antoine rushes to her side and calls for an ambulance.  His quick actions get the young woman the prompt medical attention needed to save her life. 

Antoine commits to caring for Elena during her recovery.  The two become intimate with one another and eventually fall in love.

At lunch, Elena asks Antoine how he keeps up his spirits.  He says:
I start the day off very, very low.  Never knowing how I will make it to the next day.  I wait it out.  Something always happens, and it's already tomorrow.  I don't project much, but I always have the secret hope something will pull me out of my humdrum.  Something exceptional, like having lunch with you.
Poelvoorde brings power to this simple speech, infusing it with varied nuances of emotion.  The actor fully embodies his character.  Antoine is a man who has struggled for years with anguish and depression and he wants so much to impress his coping skills upon this young woman.

Poelvoorde started out in France playing broad comedy roles, which makes his deeply moving performance in the film all the more special.

Elena renews Antoine's passion for photography.  Elena talks about her own passion to become an archaeologist so that she can help with the ongoing excavation of a sunken city in Egypt.  Antoine encourages her to finish her thesis, which will qualify her to join the excavation team.

Unfortunately, a number of issues come between the couple and threaten their relationship.

This is beautifully quiet and patient storytelling.  The characters are introspective, yet we can understand their thoughts and feelings without them having to say much.


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