Une partie de campagne

Jean Renoir, France, 1936, Solaris Distribution


A family of small time Parisian business people, the Dufours, have come out to the countryside for a Sunday trip with their clerk, Anatole.  As soon as she arrives in the countryside, Henriette, a young girl, becomes unsettled by the presence of nature. She’s overcome with “a kind of tenderness for everything, a kind of vague desire” which makes her want to cry. Two young men in a boat, regulars at the restaurant by the river, spot the girl and her mother and invite them to join them for a ride.

Henriette accepts Henry’s proposal to join him on a small island. As they make their way on to this very well defined place they are welcomed by the sound of a nightingale singing, a symbolic keeper of the space, who belongs to a realm other than that of man. They have to bend down and squeeze through the vegetation to allow them to find a little trysting place, safe from gaze of the outside world.

The space has its own perimeter “closed like a house”, a branch shaped like a small swing which hangs from a tree, acting as a door waiting to be pushed open or shut. The space is like a child’s den, surrounded by a symbolic border, like a magic circle. Showing the two couples with parallel editing like this reinforces the significance of this exact moment in this precise, secret location for Henriette, underpinned by dramatic music, while we see her mother and Rodolphe frolic about close by. The nightingale, perched in its tree, looking down on the young lovers, functions as if it is nature blessing or approving their union, with a magical benevolence, so that Henriette gives in to Henri, and, in close up, we see tears flow down her face.