180 mins | Foreign, Drama, Romance | Release Date: July 12, 2000 (France)
English Title: Sentimental Destinies
Director: Olivier Assayas
Starring: Emmanuelle Béart, Charles Berling & Isabelle Huppert
Language: French; with English subtitles
Les Destinées Sentimentales is an adaptation of Jacques Chardonne's epic novel. It examines the first four decades of the 20th century through the lives of Jean Barnery (Charles Berling), his unconventional wife Pauline (Emmanuelle Béart) and his obssesive ex-wife Nathalie (Isabelle Huppert).
The film's intention to follow moments through time was achieved. But it was exhausting at 3 hours of run time. There was just too much screen time for those heavy conversations, and an extensive focus on the finer points of porcelain-making. LOL. For such a long running time, you would think that Les Destinées Sentimentales would have perfected characterization. Wrong. The film was devoid of audience interpretation because it's a mere visual track of the characters. Assayas' camera would just follow the many characters, not too many observational moments. The transitions were weak, time would pass with little to no indication, or the characters would suddenly be in a specific emotion in the next scene but no attempt to show how they arrived there.
The film was sensitive, but disappointing. It was over-extended and in spite of the elements to a period flick being present -- set in a small village, a devoutly Protestant porcelain empire in Limoges, the Swiss Alps, and World War I -- it lacked the period movie breadth like how the Italian's would do it. Not even the beauty of Béart nor the shaky camera technique used throughout the movie could hold our attention for such a long time.
Oh well, this was Olivier Assayas' first period film, a departure from his contemporary works. That's a valid excuse for the film, I guess.