Last night I finally had the chance to watch a movie that I had on my ‘must see’ list for a couple of centuries — Tous Les Matins du Monde (1991), directed by Alain Corneau, after a novel by Pascal Quignard. It’s a fictional story based on historical characters. Gérard Depardieu plays Marin Marais, a viola da gamba player and court musician to Louis XIV. As a young man (played by Depardieu’s son Guillaume), Marais was a student of M. Sainte-Colombe, a recluse after the death of his young wife.
The movie is about music, love, betrayal, regret, longing, and the meaning of true art. It has a largo pace, with long takes allowing you to imbibe scene and nuance. It’s hard to imagine a Hollywood movie allowing any one character to speak as long as the young Marais in his first visit to Sainte-Colombe, where, in an incredibly discursive and ballsy monologue, he makes his case for being taken on as the maestro’s student; or to have so many scenes of uninterrupted bucolic beauty; or to dare to dwell on close-ups conveying worlds of meaning with the subtlest of facial gestures. Although the score is ravishing — put together by Jordi Savall from his own and the protagonists’ compositions — in a movie about music, the silences sometimes speak the loudest.
In my research into the movie, I made a heartbreaking discovery: Guillaume, who plays the preposterously handsome young Marais, died of a freak lung infection in 2008 at only 37. That this eerily paralleled some of the fictional action underscored the film’s pathos.
In the end, if the best art compels us to nobler thought and deed, Tous les Matins du Monde certainly qualifies. Should you watch the movie — to paraphrase Coleridge from the closing lines of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner — a sadder and a wiser man (or woman) you shall rise the morrow morn, and more human.