IN HARMONY (En équilibre)
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten
Director: Denis Dercourt
Screenwriter: Denis Dercourt. Book by Bernard Sachsé.
Cast: Albert Dupontel, Cécile De France, Marie Bäumer, Patrick Mille, Antonin Gabrielli, Carole Franck
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 6/14/18
Opened: July 13, 2018 in an Icarus DVD
There are some things you’ll come away with whether or not you like the story as a whole. One is that beautiful women should never put their hair up in buns. Another is that you should not trust insurance companies, evil capitalists that they are. A third is that if you don’t feel that Liszt, in his Etude No. 12, expresses emotions that you and I are unable to put into words, you have no soul. Ultimately, “In Harmony” enjoys terrific performances from its two leads and though it deals with the truth story of a stunt rider paralyzed when he falls from a horse, it does not have the saccharine development you might expect if there were a Hollywood remake.
This makes for a welcome move by Icarus Films in making the movie available to us in the States via a DVD, a story that is warm, humorous, believable and romantic. The two leads are Albert Dupontel in the role of Marc Guermont and Belgian-born Cécile de France as Florence Kernel. Denis Dercourt wrote and directs in a film that is in his métier, as he is known for “The Page Turner,” about a young woman pianist who applies to a conservatory but is distracted and fails the exam. His “In Harmony” is likewise about a pianist, Florence Kernel, who used to practice for eight hours a day but for some reason gave up her studies and settled for being an insurance adjuster. Through her association with Marc, absorbing his dedication to dust himself off after he is paralyzed and ride again, she rethinks her life and real love for the piano and cannot help actually wishing to be fired from the company for which she works.
The story opens with pressure that Florence puts on Marc to sign a protocol for an insurance settlement, offering 250 euros, which he considers insufficient to last for a lifetime. He is advised later by an advocate, Carole Franck, to hold out and to take his chances in court for the one million euros he probably deserves, yet he wonders how he can survive even now without even the funds to continue paying for modifications on his farmhouse. Meanwhile, Florence is not the hardheaded person anyone would take her for given a hairdo that makes her look almost androgynous. Advised by an employee in the insurance company to be seductive, she puts down her blond hair, and wouldn’t you know: she develops romantic urges herself for her client!
This is based on the real life story of Bernard Sachsé whose book, Sur mes quatre jambes: Le livre qui a inspiré le film En équilibre (On My Four Legs: The Life that Inspired the Film In Harmony), available at Amazon. You can read the book in French and imagine the two characters but you can hardly do better in bringing the characters to life than Cécile de France and Albert Dupontel, the latter doing all his own stunt work. The horse named Othello is sadly uncredited in the cast but does quite a job at advanced tricks. Othello is trained by Marc and kept comfortable and happy by Marc’s helper Antoine (Antonin Gabrielli).
The film opened in France in April 2015 and in the U.S. in April 2016 but somehow passed under the radar with just a few reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. Let’s hope Icarus’ DVD will revive interest in a clear, unsentimental look at one person’s adjustment to tragedy and another’s renascence of interest in the piano.
Unrated. 90 minutes. © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – B+
Acting – A-
Technical – A-
Overall – B