Film Review: Heartbeats

4 Apr

By Julian Buckeridge

Xavier Dolan quickly became a worldwide name after his terrific debut film, I Killed My Mother, which won three awards at Cannes. His follow-up, Heartbeats, questions the theme of idealisation in a controlled but stylised manner.

Two best friends, Marie (Monia Chokri) and Francis (Xavier Dolan), are introduced to the handsome Nicolas (Niels Schneider) and quickly fall in love. When Nicolas realises the two are infatuated with him, he begins goading them into a rivalry with each other. With both trying to outdo the other in terms of romantic gesture, the love-triangle represents a banal love underlined by narcissism.

Chokri’s Marie and Dolan’s Francis are insincere in their infatuation of Nicolas. Both become caught up in the chase of an impossible target that represents a concept of love. Indeed, it is their hope that their love of themselves will be confirmed by the narcissistic boy. Pointedly critiquing youth’s pursuit of an idea, rather than the real thing, Xavier Dolan understands humanity’s need for affirmation of the self.

The hyper-stylised aesthetic of Heartbeats cleverly matches its shallow story. While some critics will scrutinise Xavier Dolan’s focus on form over substance, the film achieves its purpose, with the director strategically using the tricks of the medium to control the viewer’s experience.

Slow-motion, intense colours and musical motifs capture the superficiality of this banal love. While the story is similar to Truffaut’s work and its settings close to early Godard, Heartbeats’ style is much more in line with Wong Kar-wai (although the film never reaches those heights).

An obvious cinephile in the way he composes and constructs his films, Xavier Dolan is an undeniable talent. While Heartbeats never manages to totally engage or entertain, there is enough there to confirm that Dolan will have a long career, if the generous budgets keep coming.

Screening at ACMI, Thurs 7th of April – Sun 1st of May 2011.


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