Sophia and Leo Tolstoy, the painful monologue of a loss of love

A couple ***

by Frederick Wiseman

French film, 63 minutes

A woman alone, long dress and tied hair, walks in a magnificent garden, by the sea, on a summer day. Nature shines, the waves come and go on the rocks. This woman, Sophia Tolstoy, is a ball of suffering. She takes stock of her life with Léon, her husband who has become a stranger in her eyes, overwhelmed by the incomprehension of the metamorphosis of their mad love into this series of reproaches, insults, illusory, ephemeral reconciliations. How did they go from passion to indifference, from harmony to distance, irreconcilable?

A painful monologue that reviews all the details of their life together, in a frantic search for the reasons for their estrangement. Sophia is exhausted, tired. She measures the dichotomy between the greatness of the work, its own obliteration, and life together, hopeless. His love comes up against the attitude of Tolstoy, a touchy and angry genius, with perpetual changes of mood. Idealistic and romantic, she begs in the void: “Don’t you see me as a person? »

This woman, who so badly needs to be loved, plagued by the feeling of abandonment, engages in a desperate plea for the survival of her couple. She wants to find the man she loved, just as she loved him. But she struggles thinking of their dreadful scenes, of Leon’s sudden fury, of his violent rejection, of the badly extinguished fire of devalued feelings.

Painful chronicle of a loss of love

Thirty-six years of marriage, 13 children. This painful chronicle of lovelessness, directed by documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman, with an economy of means, a simplicity, a reduced duration, unusual in his filmography-river, is nourished by the letters that Sophia and Leo Tolstoy never ceased to write to each other all their lives and excerpts from their diaries. An immense work against a backdrop of conjugal life which is falling apart, consumed by the demands of art and the unpredictability of the writer, absorbed in his work. And what work! How to find your place alongside the man who composes War and peace, to take only this pound-sum? How to exist? To be recognized?

Frederick Wiseman alternates monologue scenes with shots of trees, flowers, insects and water that burst with life, radiating contrast and counterpoint with this saddened confession of a marital shipwreck that is performed with restraint and dignity. Nathalie Boutefeu. The actress participated in the writing of this beautiful film, precipitated from all the lives of a couple, with its ups and downs, its shadows and its light.

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