French Film review: ‘La Liste de mes envies’
What would you do if you won the lottery? 18 million euros, to be exact. This is the question we’re asked to ponder in ‘La Liste de mes envies’ (‘The List of My Desires’), the 2014 drama featured in this year’s Alliance Française French Film Festival.
Based on the 2012 novel by Grégoire Delacourt, the film focuses on the life of simple haberdasher Jocelyne (Mathilde Seigner) who wins the ultimate prize pool, but keeps it secret from her family and friends.
The obvious question is: why would she do such a thing? Living a life of simple pleasures in the small town of Arras, we as viewers take it upon ourselves to play fairy godmother for her. Jocelyne could give up her small business, spoil herself, her husband and children, and upgrade her gruelling life to something more indulgent.
Money and power
But Jocelyne is wary – she knows money brings power, and privilege. She imagines people viewing her differently: looking for handouts; seeing her only for her wealth. She is humbled that her brick-and-mortar has established a modest local reputation, and is proud of herself and her husband, having worked from the bottom up to provide for their family.
We can’t help but agree with her argument – that success is to be earned through hard work. With money no longer an obstacle, she imagines that her husband will become complacent, giving up on his career and losing any drive or ambition. He no longer appeals to her, but is that reason enough to keep her winnings a secret?
A moral decision
Throughout the film we are constantly asked to question Jocelyne’s decisions, to consider whether she is doing the right thing by those in her life. As the story progresses, Jocelyne is given many opportunities to share her news, and we watch on as the consequences of her actions unfold.
Didier Le Pêcheur directs the film in such a way that we are forced into a rollercoaster ride of emotions. While the story is narrated through Jocelyne’s voice, we can’t help but spare a thought for each character. There’s husband Jo (Marc Lavoine), daughter Nadine (Tiphaine Haas), friends from neighbouring shops (Virginie Hocq, Frédérique Bel) and her Alzeihemer’s ridden father (Patrick Chesnais); all of whose lives could be vastly improved thanks to Jocelyne’s announcement.
With touches of Hollywood-like exaggeration and comedic relief, Le Pêcheur allows us to enjoy the film as a glimpse into a would-be fairytale, but ultimately brings us back to the bleak reality of the abuse of money.
After viewing the film at the Alliance Française French Film Festival, a presentation and Q&A session was given at Palace Cinemas Como by Professor Véronique Duché, from The University of Melbourne’s School of Languages and Linguistics.
The topic of debate was how Delacourt’s novel was transposed for a cinema audience, and the differences between the two versions.
Having yet to read the novel, it was intriguing to note how the book allowed others’ reactions to come to the fore of the story more than in the film – husband Jo’s in particular.
Le Pêcheur’s adaptation plays with our emotions, picking and choosing when we are to feel empathy or anger towards him. Are we then better positioned to side with Jo if we are more exposed to his point of view in the novel?
Another contentious point in the Q&A was the idea of fantasy versus fiction. The story focuses on Jocelyne and how she envisions changes in her life, to the point that she even dreamily writes a wish list (la liste de ses envies) to spend her fortune on. During her daily visits to see her father, Jocelyn is constantly inventing new scenarios with him to distract herself from the heartbreak of his six-minute memory.
An underlying theme throughout the movie is this constant manipulation of fiction with reality, and some viewers even suggested that this was a technique used in the screenplay. In essence, we are forced to draw our own conclusions and take away a personalised version of the story.
Have you read ‘La liste de mes envies’ or watched the film adaptation? What did you think of it? Share your thoughts with us below!
Catch up on everything the French Film Festival has to offer…
French Film Festival Guide
SBS French’s Christophe Mallet
5 minutes with Emmanuelle Denavit-Feller
‘La Famille Bélier‘
Images via the La liste de mes envies Facebook page.Proud partner of the Alliance Française de Melbourne.