|Rotated in translation!|
I’m not sure where the film is set. Claudel was born in the Meurthe-et-Moselle department in the Lorraine region of north east France. His two previous films were set there, in particular partly in Nancy. Avant l'hiver seems to be located not far away, possibly in Luxembourg. Paul’s wife is played by Luxembourgeoise Vicky Krieps, and when Paul says he went to Mudam, he is referring to the Musée d'art moderne Grand-Duc Jean in Luxembourg. Certainly the standard of living seems like the Grand-Duchy, even if the number plates in the film look French. In an interview with AlloCiné, Claudel emphasised his film’s seasonal significance: ” … a man – a couple - before the winter of life, moving from a flamboyant autumn … a gradual loss of brightness. Despite the gloom which unfortunately accompanied all the filming, one feels, I hope this moisture, mist and cold, and the passage of time in the garden. The beauty of this image should be almost inversely proportional to the turbulence and chaos of feelings that shake the characters."
There are some obvious parallels between Avant l'hiver and another film recently posted about here, Joanna Hogg’s Exhibition. Both are concerned with the angst of upper-middle class couples who live in Modernist houses, though the France/Luxembourg one is more firmly in the Mies van der Rohe style. But whereas Kate Muir in The Times gave Exhibition 5/5, their Wendy Ide gave Avant l'hiver 3/5. Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian, who had shared Muir’s marking of Exhibition, went down to 2/5. Mark Kermode in the Observer again awarded 3/5. Well, I suppose it’s obvious that Claudel’s budget was many times Hogg’s, but I am, nonetheless, in no doubt as to which I thought the better film!