Directed by: Pierre Granier-Deferre | 110 minutes | drama | Actors: Romy Schneider, Philippe Noiret, Victor Lanoux, Umberto Orsini, Gastone Moschin, Delia Boccardo, Martine Brochard, Neli Riga, Joachim Hansen, Carl Möhner, Vassilis Kolovos, Paul Muller, Camille Piton, Aldo Farina, Sandra Burguy, Jean Martin, Apostolos Souglakos
Classics such as ‘Casablanca’ and ‘The English Patient’ are proof that the combination of love and political tension can produce a great film. ‘Une femme à sa fenêtre’ proves that things can just as easily go wrong. This French production describes a love story against the background of great political unrest. The story is set in 1930s Greece, when a battle rages between army and communists. Diplomatic wife Margot Santorini is unexpectedly involved in the battle when a hunted communist leader appears in her bedroom in the middle of the night. The consequences can be guessed.
While the story promises an exciting and compelling adventure, in practice nothing comes of it. The film is far too distant, so that compassion requires a superhuman effort. The characters hardly come to life, partly because they never express their feelings physically but verbalize them literally. Moreover, there is no chemistry whatsoever between the lovers Margot and Boutros. The semi-intellectual conversations don’t cooperate either, while the references to Greek culture often miss the mark completely.
Much more problematic is the unfortunate chronological structure that has been chosen. The film begins at the point where the lovers temporarily say goodbye to each other, after which we see in flashbacks how it could have come to this. In itself such a structure is not uncommon, but here it turns out to be a fatal mistake. The film is partly based on ‘exciting’ scenes in which the communist tries to shake off his pursuers. Because you already know how it will end (and because the pursuers are among the worst shooters in the history of the film) those scenes are stripped of all tension.
There is very little that ‘Une femme à sa fenêtre’ can offer in return. Even though the characters never come to life, with classy people like Romy Schneider, Philippe Noiret and Victor Lanoux there is still some high-quality acting to enjoy. Moreover, among all those uninteresting characters there is one that is just a bit more interesting than the rest. Margot’s husband, Rico, is an authentic aristocrat who, with visible pleasure, carries with him several centuries of moral decay. That Rico gives the film a little color, and that also applies to the mundane circles in which he finds himself. But even that slipped aristocrat is unable to save this movie. Uninteresting and at times soporific, there is nothing more to make of ‘Une femme à sa fenêtre’.