Tuesday, 24 April 2018

3 Days in Quiberon (5 Stars)

This film is about a battle that stretches through almost all of the two hour film. It isn't a battle fought with swords or guns, it's a battle with words. The aggressive reporter Michael Jürgs tries to squeeze sensational statements out of Romy Schneider in an interview for the magazine Stern.

The film takes place in March 1981. Romy Schneider is spending a week in a French health centre in the seaside town Quiberon. If I understand correctly, the main focus of the centre is on a healthy zero calorie diet. Whether that's really healthy is a matter of opinion. The stay also includes daily cold showers and a variety of exercises. While there she's visited by her childhood friend Hilde. On the same day the Stern reporter Michael Jürgs arrives to interview her. Romy hates the German press, but she's agreed to the interview because he would be accompanied by the photographer Robert Lebeck, an old friend of hers.

Robert Lebeck, who Romy called Lebo, was possibly the man she should have married. They met in 1976 and had an almost-affair. After a long evening of talking they slept in the same bed, although they didn't have sex. Lebo speaks in the film of a note that Romy pushed under his door. It said, "I'm afraid of you. I'm afraid of myself. Forget me fast, but say good night to me first". After they parted Lebo knew a relationship was inevitable, so he stayed away from her for years. He said that Romy was too demanding as a woman and would expect a man to be with her 24 hours a day. I think he was wrong. During her two marriages she put her career first, often leaving her husbands alone for months at a time.

In this photo Robert Lebeck and Romy Schneider pose together. Their relaxed expressions show that they're more than just friends, or at least they could be if they let themselves go.

There's not the slightest intimacy with the journalist Michael Jürgs. He repeatedly tells her that he's one of the better journalists, then drives her into a corner with hurtful questions.

"What do you think when your son reads the headline: Romy is pregnant. Who is the father?"

"Why are you bankrupt after making more than 50 films?"

We see Lebo wincing when these and other questions are asked, but he waits until after the interview to criticise his partner.

The interview itself takes place over two days. On the third day there is no interview, but photographs are taken on the beach.

Romy isn't supposed to drink any alcohol while at the health centre, but on the first evening Romy, Hilde and the two others leave the building and gatecrash a wedding reception. We see a different Romy. In the health centre she's cool and reserved, especially during the interview. When she's sitting at a table with a glass of champagne in her hand she's full of joy. She dances with an old poet, which has been saved in one of the most famous photographs of Romy Schneider.

In this article I've used the original photos from 1981, not scenes from the film. When I write about the film again I'll use screenshots instead. What I'll say here is that it's amazing how similar the actors Marie Bäumer and Charly Hübner look to Romy and Lebo. Charly Hübner especially has been transformed from his usual appearance. Whenever Marie Bäumer stares into the camera, which she does frequently, I see Romy and her suffering in her eyes. That's what moves me about "3 Days in Quiberon". It's one of the deepest, most emotional films I've ever seen.

Romy never found the happiness in her life that she deserved. I blame the men in her life, but maybe Romy herself should be blamed for choosing the wrong men. Why did she have an affair with Alain Delon when it was obvious to everyone that he was using her? Her other lovers and husbands were only slightly better. I wonder if Robert Lebeck regrets letting her go.

This was the last interview she gave. In May 1982 she died of a heart attack. Contributing factors were her chain smoking, her excessive alcohol consumption and her depression after the death of her son.

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