Saturday, May 17, 2008

Movie Moments, 7: A Surge of Relief

From the transcript of "Jules et Jim" (France, 1962, dir. Francois Truffaut).
Jules attends the laying to rest of the ashes of his wife, Catherine, and his best friend, Jim. Catherine has killed herself and Jim in a suicide-murder.

Jim's coffin was bigger than life.
Catherine's was a jewel-box.
Jules would never again fear that she would cheat on him... or die... because it was over.
Had Catherine enjoyed the battle?
She'd dazed Jules to the point of nausea.

He felt a surge of relief.

He felt a surge of relief.

Jules et Jim is another of those movies I first saw when I was about 11, on the Classic Movies series on public televion.
The film has meant something different to me every time I've watched it.

Austrian Jules (Oskar Werner, above right) and French Jim (Henri Serre, above center) are best friends in pre-WWI France.
They fall in love with Catherine (Jeanne Moreau, above left), who smiles serenely like a statue they'd seen together in Greece. And she falls in love with them both, and marries Jules.

Jim visists Jules and Catherine in Austria after the war.
Jim and Catherine become lovers, which Jules accepts (left) rather than lose either of them.
Everything's drenched in black-and-white misty melancholy.
Catherine takes other lovers.
Everyone's unhappy.
This goes on for a while.
Jim decides to marry someone else.
Catherine, smiling her enigmatic smile, invites Jim for a drive.
"Watch us!" she calls out to Jules.
Then she drives off a bridge, killing herself and Jim.
Jules is devastated.
And relieved.

1) When I was a child, the tangled emotions of the menage-a-trois mystified me, but I recognized the doomed loveliness that underlies the whole film. (Does childhood know its own end?)

2) When I had an affair a dozen years ago, I recognized the dazed nausea of impossible love.

3) When my mother killed herself, I recognized Jules' relief. When love is a torment, sometimes you're glad when the story ends.

I got thinking about this movie yesterday, when I decided to take a blue-sky visit to photograph my mother's memorial paving stone (right) in Loring Park's garden.

Jules et Jim was one of my top-ten favorite movies, but I don't know that I need ever watch it again.


For more info on suicide prevention or help if you are struggling:
"The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals."
Outside of the United States, please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.


ddip said...

Yep, "Jules and Jim" is one of my top-ten movies too. I remember being dazed by it as a kid and feeling a sense of recognition, almost premonition, that I didn't understand at the time. As an adult, I feel a bit like Jules, the admiring one who's always somehow left behind as the surviving one; Catherine, the stand-in/metaphor for the real Catherine in my own live as well as all the others one loves and loses during the course of a lifetime. I think springtime, like other transitional times, holds great sadness as well as joy.

fresca davis said...

Hey, Sister---Yeah, and how 'bout that other great film of our childhood, Death in Venice?!?! Ha!
I've got to write about that one sometime too. Or not.