Jacques Rivette‘s 1983 film “Love on the Ground” (“L’amour par terre”) is a fascinating entry into the director’s larger body of work. This enigmatic gem, often overlooked in the annals of French cinema, offers a masterful exploration of the blurred lines between reality and performance, life and art.
Birkin and Chaplin begins
“Love on the Ground” presents a complex narrative revolving around two actresses, Emily (Jane Birkin) and Charlotte (Geraldine Chaplin), who are invited by a mysterious playwright, Clément Roquemaure (Jean-Pierre Kalfon), to his chateau. There, they participate in an experimental play which seems to mimic the intricate tapestry of their own lives and emotions.
From the onset, Rivette’s vision for this film is strikingly clear – a tale that dances on the thin line between illusion and reality. The film is a labyrinth of plot lines that weave seamlessly into one another, creating an almost dream-like narrative structure. Rivette cleverly uses the theatrical setting as a metaphorical stage for the drama of life, highlighting the transformative power of performance in both art and existence.
Birkin and Chaplin make Love on the Ground work
Both Birkin and Chaplin deliver performances that encapsulate the depth and complexity of their characters. Their on-screen chemistry and compelling portrayal of Emily and Charlotte create an engaging dynamic that sustains the film’s narrative momentum.
However, the true genius of “Love on the Ground” extends beyond its compelling storyline and captivating performances. The film’s profound contribution to French cinema lies in its audacious narrative structure, thematic depth, and nuanced exploration of the human condition.
One of Rivette’s most distinct narrative techniques is his emphasis on the porous boundaries between reality and illusion. This technique, used to great effect in “Love on the Ground,” was relatively unconventional in French cinema during the 1980s. Rivette’s exploration of this narrative strategy expands the horizons of French cinematic storytelling, contributing a unique perspective to the national cinema.
Rivette didn’t want the French New Wave to end
Moreover, “Love on the Ground” carries forward the spirit of the French New Wave, of which Rivette was a key figure. By the 1980s, the movement had largely dissipated, with French cinema trending toward more commercial and mainstream narratives. However, “Love on the Ground” stands as a testament to the continued vitality of this avant-garde movement.
The film’s complex narrative structure, thematic depth, and focus on individual perspectives are reminiscent of the New Wave’s cinematic principles. Rivette, in his distinct style, refines these principles to create a film that is both a product of its time and a nod to the groundbreaking cinematic movement.
“Love on the Ground” also offers a refreshing take on female-led narratives. The film places two women at its narrative heart, exploring their personal and professional journeys with a depth and complexity that were often lacking in mainstream cinema. By focusing on the experiences of Emily and Charlotte, “Love on the Ground” provides a nuanced depiction of womanhood and artistic ambition, contributing to the diversification of female representation in French cinema.
Honestly, it’s one of my favorite Rivette movies.
“Love on the Ground” is a unique piece of French cinema that contributes a distinct narrative approach, thematic depth, and progressive representation to the national cinematic landscape. Jacques Rivette’s masterful storytelling and thematic depth make “Love on the Ground” a cinematic experience that engages, challenges, and captivates.
While the film might be unconventional by mainstream standards, it is precisely this departure from the norm that gives it its enduring charm. “Love on the Ground” is a testament to the transformative power of cinema – a power that transcends cultural boundaries and resonates with audiences worldwide. Its unique contribution to French cinema reaffirms the global importance of France’s cinematic legacy.
Love on the Ground comes to Blu-ray
Love on the Ground is the latest stellar World Cinema classic from the Cohen Collection. The Blu-ray comes with an audio commentary track that actually surprised the hell out of me. I’m not familiar with Professor Richard Pena, but he has a warm and inviting way that offers a brief seminar of what Rivette was doing in this era. Plus, you get a re-release trailer.
The A/V Quality is kinda underwhelming for having a recent 4K restoration. For being a longer movie, the 1.85:1 transfer stayed pretty flat and consistent for its nearly three hours. The DTS-HD 2.0 track is true to its era, however all of the dialogue hits thin between the channels. Honestly, it surprised me.