Over the last weekend we spent some time with my father and while doing so he and I ended up watching Molière. Now, I know virtually nothing about Molière, other than he was a comedic playwright in pre-Revolutionary France. I didn’t even know which century he lived in (the seventeenth, as it happens). I have never seen a Molière play, nor had any desire to see one (comedy being very much a hit and miss affair with me). In short this is a film I would never have watched of my own accord, but my father wished to watch it, and therefore so did I.
The conceit of the film is a flashback to a period early in Molière’s life, before he was famous, and a sequence of events which inspired him to his fame. In fact the entire episode is entirely fictitious, and as I read later, the film uses Molière’s own plays for its inspiration.
Comedy is actually quite a difficult thing for me to watch – especially situational comedy. I keep getting acutely embarrassed on behalf of the characters. It does not happen always, but sometimes I find myself finding an excuse to leave a room or bury myself in a book or something until the moment passes. It does not just happen in pure comedies, but also in comic moments in other films too. As it happens I did spent several moments of this film entrenched in browsing something on the internet now and then – but despite this I still enjoyed the humour immensely.
There are, at heart, four characters in this film with a smattering of others. I do not believe I have encountered any of them previously, given my miniscule exposure to non-English language films (this is a French film). The roles were all well and solidly played, and Romain Duris has a wonderful touch as Moliìere. However, he is a little upstaged by Laura Morante who captured her role to absolute perfection. If I were more of a cinephile I almost certainly would check out a selection of her other work, but realistically I am unlikely to do this.
While this film is a comedy, at moments it turns decidedly serious – like all the best comedies which do this it makes those one or two moments very powerful indeed. When Molière exclaims to Elmira Jourdain that there are comedies cannot tackle certain subjects she gives him the same advice she gave him much earlier in his life: invent it – and it nearly breaks my heart.
In retrospect the film this is most similar too – and one suspects it was part of the inspiration for it – is Shakespeare in Love. Thinking about it both Shakespeare and Molière had not dis-similar careers. One could probably right a parallel biography after the style of Plutarch about them.
Overall I enjoyed this film very much, and would recommend it to anyone who wished for an enjoyable masquerade with a serious twist – assuming there is no trouble either understanding French or reading subtitles of course 🙂 . Overall rating 3,5/5