A Good Marriage
Directed by
Eric Rohmer (France 95 minutes)
Released
19 May 1982
Writing credits
Eric Rohmer
Cast
Béatrice Romand .... Sabine
André Dussollier .... Edmond
Féodor Atkine .... Simon
Arielle Dombasle .... Clarisse
Huguette Faget .... Maryse, Antique Dealer
Thamila Mezbah .... Mother of Sabine
Sophie Renoir .... Lise
Hervé Duhamel .... Frédéric
Pascal Greggory .... Nicolas
Virginie Thévenet .... The Bride
Denise Bailly .... Comtesse
Vincent Gauthier .... Claude
Anne Mercier .... La secrétaire
Catherine Rethi .... Cliente
Patrick Lambert .... Voyageur
Produced by
Margaret Ménégoz .... producer
Original Music by
Ronan Girre
Simon des Innocents
Cinematography by
Bernard Lutic
Film Editing by
Cécile Decugis
Production Management
Marie Bouteloup .... unit manager
Art Department
Alberto Bali .... paintings
Sound Department
Dominique Hennequin .... sound mixer
Gérard Lecas .... assistant sound
Georges Prat .... sound
Other crew
Nicolas Brunet .... camera operator
Gerard Deligne .... silk pictures
María Luisa García .... assistant editor (as Lisa Hérédia)
Helene Rossignol .... antiquity
Romain Winding .... camera operator

A Good Marriage (1982)

The second of Eric Rohmer's six Comedies & Proverbs films, A Good Marriage (Le Beau Mariage) follows the trials and errors of a tenacious young woman who decides on a whim that getting hitched is the solution to all her problems. The young art student Sabine (Béatrice Romand), walks out on her lover, proudly announcing her plan to be wed and goes in search of a husband.

Astonished by Sabine's impulsive behaviour, her happily married friend Clarisse (Arielle Dombasle) warms to Sabine's plan and introduces her to her eligible cousin Edmond (André Dussollier). Convinced that Edmond is her ideal future husband, Sabine openly pursues Edmond, but on confronting him with her ideas for their relationship, finds that he doesn't share her plans for matrimony.

This is a coming-of-age tale that echoes the passionate struggle evident in the other films in the series. Rohmer submits Sabine to a great deal of embarrassment, although her romantic idealism and confident determination are to be admired. She is single-minded, resolute and independent whilst remaining fragile and immature.

Set in Le Mans and Paris, the film is artfully shot and follows a beautifully mellow autumn colour scheme in direct contrast with the springtime greens and blues of The Aviator's Wife. Like Rohmer's other works, it focuses upon conversation, be it confidential between Sabine and Clarisse; or confrontational as with Sabine and Edmond.

The film illustrates La Fontaine's saying: Quel esrpit ne bat la campagne? Qui ne fait châteaux en Espagne? (Can any of us refrain? From building castles in Spain?)

A Good Marriage manages an amazing feat of empathy. The story is more tightly structured that it might appear, and as always, Rohmer's trademark dialogue is vital. As well as conveying plot and character, it's highly literate.

With all the Comedies and Proverbs, Rohmer puts at the centre of his film a young woman whose search for love and whose emotional life is all-important, no matter how self-absorbed and ditsy they may be at times. Sabine is the ditsiest of Rohmer's heroines. You can sense that Rohmer likes his young women more than he does his men, who are viewed with judgemental detachment. Sabine is doomed to be disillusioned from the beginning. Romand creates a complete character in Sabine. Her body language is excellent. Even the way she walks is revealing: a certainty that brooks no contradiction. It's really Romand's movie and she is supported by a strong cast; many of whom have worked with Rohmer in the past.

Rohmer said of Romand, that she speaks quite slowly but does articulate carefully. He compared her to Fernandel, a popular French comedian of the 40s and 50s - not in terms of looks, fortunately, but because he had a similar slow but very clear delivery. Rohmer also discussed the film's look, with an emphasis on autumnal browns and muted pinks, which he compared to the cool blues and pale yellows of the previous film, The Aviator's Wife. He also talked about the social background of the characters, with the different class origins of Edmond and Sabine playing an important part in the story.

To isolate a particular Eric Rohmer film as a lesser or greater work is an dodgy business. Critics of this Rohmer movie claim that he has been making the same film over and over for the past forty years. Rohmer is quoted as follows concerning his six Moral Tales films:

"Instead of asking myself what subjects were most likely to appeal to audiences, I persuaded myself that the best thing would be to treat the same subject six times over. In the hope that by the sixth time the audience would come to me!"

A Good Marriage doesn't shine like The Green Ray (no pun intended), which is often judged to be Rohmer's best film of this series. Unlike his better films (The Green Ray and Claire's Knee especially), A Good Marriage has a straightforward storyline. Things happen, but little changes. Sabine's dialogue is as strong as that of any of Rohmer's characters, but because she is so single-minded the narrative is more linear and to some extent less interesting.

Despite that, the film visually and verbally contains all of the charm that one would expect from a Rohmer movie. One feels a great deal of sympathy for Sabine in the scene in which she is rejected by Edmond and this is a tribute to Rohmer's film-making abilities.

Trivia

• Bèatrice Romand first worked with Rohmer at the age of eighteen in Claire's Knee and more recently played one of the lead roles in Autumn Tale.

• Cinematographer Bernard Lutic photographed two other Comedies and Proverbs: The Aviator's Wife and My Girlfriend's Boyfriend.

• Arielle Dombasle, who plays Clarisse, sang Paris ma séduit at the end of The Aviator's Wife.