The Beat That My Heart Skipped

22 May

Director: Jacques Audiard (2009)

Thomas Seyr (Romain Duris) has found himself at a rather strange crossroads, one that would probably make even the greatest existentialist Hamlet himself pause in wonder as to how he had managed to get himself into such a predicament –continue down the path into the seedy under-dealings of a real estate broker or to become a concert pianist… Surprisingly there aren’t so many films which tackle such a dilemma, but in the effort for cinema to cover every eventuality, Audiard has stepped in.

Torn between a life in the dubious world of real estate terrorism or following his mother’s footsteps and his ambition to become a concert pianist, the story follows the pensive and archetypal French dreamboat Thomas as he struggles to find equilibrium between the two worlds.

Enlisting the help of gentle Chinese girl and recent import to France, Miao Lin (Linh Dan Pham), Thomas begins piano lessons in the hope of reigniting his talents as a concert pianist enough to audition for his mother’s old manager, Mr Fox, after a chance meeting outside a concert. Meanwhile his layabout father, Robert, disproves of his son’s return to music instead forcing him to continue his descent into corruption and violence and help him face the wrath of some rather brutal Russian mobsters. The strange dichotomy that develops between thuggery and gentle passion on the ivories is rather beautifully represented through the repeated motif of Thomas’ hands. Bruised and battered from brandishing baseball bats and pummelling faces, it is strange to see them tenderly caressing the keys – or rather see them struggling to do so. In both ‘careers’ he needs to use his hands, only in very different ways – in one, they must be hardened to withstand brutal force, the other, they must be protected and preserved, the two professions cannot co-exist. As he struggles to juggle the two, he reaches the realisation that escaping the seedy underworld in which he is bound by his friends and family, is going to be harder than it looks. If not harder than mastering Bach’s Toccata in E Minor.

The Beat My Heart Skipped, a beautiful title for a film if you ask me, is a typically French film, stylised with lashings of blatant inspirations from film noir thrillers but brought up to date with electro soundtracks, which when placed beside the classical scores, only add to the many juxtapositions of the film. Beauty and violence, rage and breathless passion all come together to remind us that there are a reason opposites exist in the world and that sometimes we are forced to make decisions. Bloody hands have no place against the whites of piano keys.


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