Noir meets reality

Notes On: De Battre Mon Coeur S’est Arrêté (Laurie Dix)

De Battre Mon Coeur S’est Arrêté (The Beat That My Heart Skipped) is not really a noir, although it is a good film and there can be certain comparisons drawn.

Tom earns his money through nefarious deeds. Since the death of his mother, Tom has never quite gotten to grips with the death, and does not appreciate his father looking for love.
Tom finds respite in playing the piano, something his mother encouraged him to do, and now has a choice between the life of crime or a new life of music.

The plot unlike anything I have ever heard of before, and after the first time I watched it I was sure if I’d missed something important, because I couldn’t believe that’s all there was to it. I first watched it with my brother, and his understanding of it was: “I am a French gangster, but I just really want to play the piano.” which is basically what I understood as well.
There is more to it, involved in the relationships Tom has with various people; his colleagues, his father, his piano teacher, but all this just emphasises his choice between Piano and Piano-wire.

As I mentioned at the top of this blog, this is not really a noir, but there are certain elements which can be compared to noir.

I think a lot of it is to do with the fact that it’s French, and some French directors do Style very well (I was also going to mention ‘Three Colours Blue’, ‘Le Triplette du Belleville’ and ‘Delicatessen’ in terms of stylistic influences when it comes to my own writing and my understanding of ‘Modern noir’) there is the gangster element, but not so much as to be able to call it a Gangster movie, and there are his relationships with women.

The lighting is incredibly important throughout this film, but most important is the music. You would expect a film about a piano-playing-gangster to have a good soundtrack, and it does. One which highlights the moment and emphasises the story; a mix between electro and classical music, the score is of utmost importance in guiding the story and creating tension and emotion.

In noir films, the score follows a theme throughout which is adapted to suit the moment. In more recent films, this happens less and less, focusing instead more on individual tracks throughout, rather than following one theme. In ‘The Beat That My Heart Skipped’, there are a few themes, but the essence of the theme is still there: the music following a certain expression.

Again, certain noir tropes can be identified:

  • A ‘Maverick, Rule-breaking’ protagonist (who smokes)
  • A female, forbidden love interest
  • Gangsters
  • A body
  • The ‘Situation’ (the protagonist being ‘A loner’)
  • More gangsters

In conclusion, ‘The Beat That My Heart Skipped’ is not a ‘Noir’, but certain elements are there. I think a lot of this is due to European influences; obvious in European cinema, but these came to be in American cinema due to people fleeing their native countries during WWII, and working in American cinema. If you trace back these influences, there are still flavours of this style in European cinema today; merely a different branch of the same family tree.


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