Ultra-classicism is not in itself at fault. But the one deployed here by Ildikó Enyedi turns to the Stations of the Cross for nearly 3 hours
There are two highlights in My wife’s story, the new feature film by the Hungarian Ildikó Enyedi (Camera d’Or at Cannes in 1989 with My twentieth century) set in 1920s Europe. Its removed opening where its main character, the Dutch ship captain, makes a bet with a friend in a cafe – marry the first woman to cross the threshold – before the door enters it. young Parisian socialite who will therefore become his wife. Like the beautiful promise of a fun film. And a little later, a fire scene on a boat where Ildikó Enyedi’s staging unfolds with a power that again portends the best. And then that’s all !
For nearly three hours, we witness the slow, very slow, very very slow decay of a couple whose husband will be gradually plagued by the jealousy born of his wife’s repeated nocturnal escapades during these long months when he is at sea. Certainly, formally (lighting, costumes, decoration …), the film is flawless. Admittedly, Léa Seydoux is impeccable there (although less impressive than in France by Bruno Dumont today!). But My wife’s story belongs to that category of films where you put your slippers on for fear of damaging a parquet so carefully waxed. The story stretches in a totally artificial way without this length adding anything interesting except more and more painful repetitions. Classicism can give birth to great and beautiful films, the 80’s and 90’s film of a James Ivory can testify to it, but when it turns like here in manic obsession, smothering its story under the gilding of the historical reenactment, this classicism becomes the worst enemy of what is played on the screen.