Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Beat That My Heart Skipped

French film
Length: 1 hour 47 minutes
Rating: Not Rated

What is it about?
The Beat That My Heart Skipped is an incredible movie which delves deep into the psychology of a Parisian property shark named Tom. The business of dirty real estate has been handed down from his father who often guilts Tom into violently collecting money which hasn't been paid. When Tom meets Mr. Fox, his late pianist mother's manager, in a chance encounter, he gets the chance to turn his life around. The movie revolves around Tom's struggle to pull himself out of the real estate business in which he is so heavily entrenched and create a better life for himself.

Was it a good movie?
This kind of deep psychology is only usually found in books, and this movie pulls it off perfectly. The story and character development is fast, but very solid all the way around. Tom's internal struggle is foreshadowed in the very first scene, setting the stage for the rest of the movie and how his father's attitude and choices will affect him. The whole movie, though dramatic, is realistic in terms of Tom's psychological issues, and that's the most valuable part of the movie.

Can you explain some of the symbolism? (WARNING: this portion contains some spoilers!)
Tom is seeking to become more like his mother in adopting her love of the piano, mostly to get away from the life he's currently leading - a life just like his father's. In trying to be like his mother, Tom is yet again following a career path (and way of life) that he has not chosen himself. This is one of the major reasons he cannot succeed in turning his life around when he has the chance. Neither career path is really right for him. In one scene, Tom listens to a recording of his mother having difficulty practicing piano because she's too nervous. Not only is this foreshadowing of how Tom's audition will go, but it further highlights the fact that Tom will not be able to succeed as this is not his own dream and passion, but somebody else's. In other words, while his aspiration to change his life for the better is admirable, he has doomed himself to fail.

Tom's piano playing serves several purposes throughout the movie. The audience hears Tom playing the same piano passages over and over, symbolizing his being stuck in the same situation in his job, his life, and all his relationships. The piano also brings Tom together with Miaou, his Asian piano teacher. While Tom learns the language of meaningful and heartfelt piano playing from Miaou, he teaches her French, as she doesn't know the language at all. She is the first female that holds any value in his life, although at times their interaction is awkward. Finally, the piano gives Tom a more healthy outlet for his anger with both himself and his father. He takes out the anger he feels because of being used and unappreciated by his father on other men who don't appreciate their wives/girlfriends. Just as his father uses Tom to solve his own problems but doesn't appreciate his efforts (which are not considered favors, but are expected from him), the other men Tom comes in contact with don't appreciate their wives/girlfriends and take advantage of them. Two major examples of this are Fabrice, Tom's cheating business partner, and Minskov, the Russian businessman who won't pay Tom's father money he owes. Tom sleeps with Fabrice's wife Aline and Minskov's young girlfriend as a sort of twisted and indirect revenge for the way he has been used by his own father. By doing this he is accomplishing two opposing things: giving the women the attention he feels he deserves from his father, and at the same time, using them the way he's been used. He resorts to these things when he is disgusted with the life he's living.

At the end, on his way to Miaou's concert, Tom chooses to attack Minskov after seeing him on the street. This is extremely significant as Tom's father has been dead for two years and therefore there is no longer any pressure on him to avenge the debt owed to his father. He could easily have seen Minskov, gotten upset, and left it alone, satisfied with the violence-free life he is now living. Perhaps he thinks Minskov killed his father, but if he was a genuinely non-violent person inside, wouldn't he try to control himself and continue on to Miaou's concert? Tom's reaction to Minskov brings into question whether he can change from who he had to be when his father was alive. When Tom can't bring himself to kill Minskov, he finally lets himself feel the pain of his life and his father's death. It brings him to realize that he can no longer be the person who his father forced him to be, even to avenge the last debt owed to his father. But is it too late? Is the high he experiences when he finally sits down at Miaou's concert from Miaou's piano playing or his brutality against Minskov? Or is it a result of finally freeing himself from his father's grasp by completing his father's last wish of "getting" Minskov?

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