If spending two hours with a family of sexually dissipated, spoiled brats in a wealthy household is your idea of a good time, then Murmur of the Heart is definitely for you. Many have praised Malle’s even-tempered, semi-autobiographical study of an adolescent whose initiation into sexual experience begins with a whore and ends with his mother. But the filmmaker’s sufferance for his milieu taxes our patience and sympathies vis-à-vis its imbecilic characters. Murmur is one of those movies so devoid of point-of-view, of artistic attitude towards its subject matter that I was scratching my head throughout wondering what point Malle was trying to make in subjecting us to it. While the self-serious gynecologist-father (whose clinic is overrun, it seems, with beautiful women with whom he dallies), debates politics with his moneyed friends, his wife blithely carries on an affair (one surely in a whole string), and his sons taunt each other, make life hell for the housekeeper, obsess shrilly about sex, and cavort with prostitutes. It’s not that people like this don’t exist — and I’ve no personal grievance against Malle’s characters per se — it’s just that they’re not interesting. Yet in his presentation of them, Malle is disturbingly rosy, doting even, and assumes the knee-jerk posture of a humanist — this would be a valid approach if there were even a hint of inner conflict or suffering on the part of any of the buffoons on display here, but as the family members’ lives drift along in dissipation, and in the indulging of every sexual adventure on their minds, it’s tough for the rest of us to secure even a semblance of interest in any of them. The performances are competent, and the whiff of droll, lighthearted humor partially redeems what is otherwise a gorgeously filmed exercise in smug depravity.
Directed by: Louis Malle
Written by: Louis Malle
Cast: Lea Massari, Benoît Ferreux, Daniel Gélin, Michael Lonsdale, Ave Ninchi, Gila von Weitershausen, Fabien Ferreux, Marc Winocourt