Murmur of the Heart

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"A souffle of a movie!"
  • R
  • 1971
  • 1 hr 58 min
  • 7.6  (10,529)

Murmur of the Heart is a coming-of-age drama film set in 1950s France. It centers around Laurent Chevalier, a precocious 14-year-old boy growing up in Dijon with his bourgeois family. Laurent lives with his aspiring writer mother Clara, gynecologist father Henri, and his two older brothers. Laurent is very intelligent but struggles to fit in among his peers, preferring adult company and female attention.

After Laurent is caught cheating on an exam at his Catholic boarding school, he is sent home in disgrace. There he spends his summer days in the city with his friend Momo, frequenting jazz clubs and brothels. Laurent becomes infatuated with a young Italian shoeshop clerk named Francesca. Meanwhile at home, his parents’ marriage begins to crumble as they openly engage in extramarital affairs.

Laurent and his brothers go on vacation to the family’s summer home in the French Alps. There Laurent meets Charlie, an outgoing American girl his age. She introduces Laurent to rock music, dancing, drinking games and other rebellious pastimes. Their friendship soon develops into a summer romance.

Later at a party, Laurent has too much to drink. He ends up dangerously ill with a heart murmur. His mother Clara decides to accompany him to a sanatorium in the mountains for treatment. There in the isolated, idyllic setting, Laurent and Clara are drawn closer together. Lonely and vulnerable, Laurent instigates an incestuous encounter with his mother.

After Laurent recovers and returns home, he keeps what happened a secret. The family welcomes home Laurent’s father, whose work had kept him away. They prepare for the eldest son to leave for military service in Algeria. On the train platform, Laurent steals a kiss from Francesca before saying goodbye to his brother. Having come of age over the course of the film, Laurent now looks to the future with more maturity and confidence.

With its liberal outlook and frank depiction of sexuality, Murmur of the Heart was considered controversial at the time. However, it was acclaimed for its sensitive portrayal of adolescent self-discovery. Director Louis Malle rejected moralizing in favor of an open, humane perspective on human frailties and life’s ambiguities. The film is an evocative portrait of post-war French youth entering a new era of social change. Enhanced by insightful performances and Malle’s deft storytelling, Murmur of the Heart poignantly captures the pivotal transition from childhood to adulthood.

Murmur of the Heart
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  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 58 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    7.6  (10,529)