Made over six summers by Fabienne Abramovich, her documentary Loves Me, Loves Me Not talks about love – literally. Its first festival bow was in the Swiss Competition program at this year’s Visions du Réel in Nyon, Switzerland.
During the summer, hundreds of people gather on the banks of the Ourcq Canal in Paris. They picnic, play boules, drink with friends in an intoxicating stream of words and in an atmosphere so characteristic of summer nights in the city of lovers. The film makes us roam the banks, go with the flow, circulate from one group to another at the whim of discussions, and meet strangers. Whether these conversations are serious or light-minded, a single subject attracts the attention of Fabienne Abramovich : love, amongst the little everyday trivia and grand philosophical considerations. A dozen couples, lovers or friends, wax poetically and spontaneously, without worrying about the camera that attentively observes them. They try to understand the feeling of love, to explain the emotion and desire, to share intimate experiences and to defend love as an empirical experience. They talk rationally of the most irrational of subjects.
The film is divided into three different chapters. The first one, titled after a verse of one of the most famous arias of Bizet’s Carmen, « Si tu ne m’aimes pas, je t’aime », examines love as a feeling. The second one, titled after a quote about passion from Racine’s Phèdre, discusses physical love and, the third one, once again taken out of Carmen, is titled « L’amour est un oiseau rebelle » and tackles rebel love – here, more specifically, gay and forbidden love. The director uses these cultural references to divide her film according the different levels of love. Therefore, love is discussed and analzyed here on three different levels and divided into three different themes related to love. The camera follows Pablo who walks and talks with random people – couples, old(er) and young(er), friends, men and women, who talk and reflect about love, share their experiences, feelings and opinions – both good and bad – on the subject of love and its various and varied subtopics. These include heartbreak and the subsequent separation and aftermath, passion, sex, past relationships, children, the notion and possibility of loving someone various times and loving more than one person, the beginning of a relationship, fears, actions and reactions, mistakes, assumptions and the eternal daunting question : What is love ? All these conversations draw out key words, notions and adjectives related to love, such as « absolute », « fun », « date », « shivers », « stakes », « feeling », « veto » that appear on the screen after the exploration of a particular question. Moreover, the film tackles the subject of the new playground of love : internet and technology, both of which have set a new game with new rules and have entirely reshaped the concept of love. In that, Loves Me, Loves Me Not paints a faithful portrait of love in modern times. But, ultimately, not much has actually changed. The questions and worries remain eternal. Indeed, love is universal yet personal, therefore different, and this is exactly what this documentary wants to show. Love is an age-old feeling and notion that has been around forever, in many shapes and forms. Countless books, plays, poems and songs have been written about it. Countless films have been made about it. And, everyone has felt or experienced at least one of the topics discussed here at least once in their life and that is exactly what makes this film real and authentic. The viewers can and will absolutely and undoubtedly relate. And, here lies the power of this film. It will make them think about love, examine and rethink their relationship to and with it. It is almost cathartic.
The film is nicely executed. However, the parts where it merely observes the behavior of people performing some rituals of love such as kissing and hugging, on the banks of the canal – in an almost voyeurist manner – proves a bit tiresome but it nevertheless succeeds in marvelously capturing the inherently summery and careless atmosphere of the environment, from the crooning and improvising of a song about a phallus, people dancing and swimming, to a young woman playing the trapezist and walking on a rope, which on another symbolic level perfectly epitomizes love (and its intrinsic dangers) : to love is to fall… The film is actually highly symbolic. It also captures people’s behavior when it rains and what it does – it brings people together, washes everything away and creates new possibilities. But, the film ends on a wintery note, showing us the desolation of the banks in winter, with a voice-over of Guillaume Appollinaire’s poem Le Pont Mirabeau. And, that symbolism takes us to the eclectic and interesting choice of music that ranges from Verdi’s opera La Traviata to a song by the Turkish singer Tarkan, that famously simulates the kissing noise. Indeed, culture is not only present in the form of music and extracts of songs, plays and poems but also figures in people’s conversations, like for instance the allusions to Baudelaire and his views on love. But, also, Paris plays here an important role as the city of lovers. As a matter of fact, according to one of them, it is the perfect place to start a romance. Furthermore, the title of the film « Loves Me, Loves Me Not » or « Un peu, beaucoup, passionnément » in its original version, is perhaps the best illustration and summary of the film, alluding to the very romantic – and maybe even outdated now – action of stripping a flower off its petals in order to find out whether one’s love is requited or not.
Through girl talks, boy talks, couple talks, friends talks, Loves Me, Loves Me Not is a highly symbolic but also original, insightful, observational, philosophical, thought-provoking and almost therapeutic film on the topic of love. It will make us rethink our past and present relationships and stands on different notions related to love. It will take us on our own personal rant on love. And, that is not only formidable but sometimes also necessary…
O.T. : Un peu, beaucoup, passionnément. Production: METALproductions (Switzerland 2016). Producers: Fabienne Abramovich and Claude-Evelyne Grandjean. Director: Fabienne Abramovich. Screenplay: Fabienne Abramovich and Michel Coulon. Photography: Fabienne Abramovich. Editing: Fabienne Abramovich, Michel Coulon and Elizabeth Waelchli.
Color – 77 min. Premiere: 16-IV-2016 (Visions du Réel)
This film was reviewed at the 2016 Visions du Réel Film Festival.