Mademoiselle Chambon is a film in which very little happens, little is said and even less is remembered after leaving the cinema. Vincent Lindon plays Jean, a happily married man who loves his family, until he meets his son’s teacher and everything unravels. Mademoiselle Chambon, played by Sandrine Kiberlain, is not the French seductress that you might expect, but rather enchants him with her intellect and musical ability, as she allows him to escape from his ordinary working class life. There is a marked subtlety to the actor’s performances, and more is told through their expressions than through dialogue. Kiberlain has an intense sadness about her that is communicated in a wonderfully delicate way.
However, I couldn’t help but feel that it was all a little too beneath the surface. The audience is not given much of the two central character’s histories, meaning that it is difficult to understand or particularly sympathise with them. This lack of sympathy is taken further as Jean’s wife, Anne-Marie (Aure Atika) seems blameless. Despite this, the cinematography is enchanting, and the shots use the sun soaked French setting well.
Interestingly, the film contains little non-diegetic music, which is perhaps the director’s way of communicating the mundanity of the protagonist’s life, and yet it makes the film seem quite long and stilted. For a depiction of a passionate affair, their love seems rather unconvincing, perhaps because they actually exchange very few words throughout the film. The plot itself is nothing audiences haven’t seen before, which leads me to question what the director was trying to say with the film.
Despite its negative qualities, Mademoiselle Chambon is difficult to dislike. Perhaps it is simply a matter of personal interpretation, where the audience has to relate to the characters, making it a film for our parents generation rather than us. It lacks the characteristics of a blockbuster hit, but I would recommend it to fans of French cinema or people who want to watch something slightly less mainstream than usual.