Okay, how did I not watch Le bonheur until now?
One of Agnes Varda’s most unsettling films, Le bonheur (1965) is edited in two styles. For the main character’s (Francois) relationship with his wife, we see long, fluid tracking shots that are almost entirely shot outside in nature and convey a disturbing lack of conflict And for Francois’s relationship with his mistress, we see quick cutting and many shot reverse shots, which for the most part are contained to interior scenes.
However, it’s not so much the contrast of these two relationships as it is their eventual similarity, that is at the heart of this film. In the final scene, we hear a piece by Mozart and see our protagonist’s family at a picnic shot with those now familiar sweeping tracking shots. The scene is almost an exact replica of the scene at the very beginning of Le bonheur - save for one thing - the mistress has taken the place of the wife.
I’m always curious to know how a script for a film like this reads because so much of its meaning is conveyed in visual and aural cues. The inciting incident, as its known in scriptwriting, is nowhere to be found in Le bonheur, there is no climactic argument, and there is no resolution. But the film really gets underneath your skin, precisely because it’s devoid of all the familiar signposts of conflict and drama. It’s a testament to Varda’s tremendous skill as a filmmaker, and a reminder to me, to consistently test the boundaries of cinematic language.