A long time ago Thomas Seyr (Romain Duris) knew how to enjoy life…he played the piano. Unfortunately his dreary job as a real estate broker-errand boy for Thomas Seyr Sr. (Niels Arestrup) has slowly expanded into a monotonous routine of never-ending shady business deals, late-night visits at future "properties" unlawfully occupied by illegal immigrants, and increasingly dangerous "negotiations" with murky characters to which Thomas Seyr Sr. owns money.
But after a gifted Chinese pianist (Linh-Dan Pham) agrees to prepare Thomas for a piano audition at the Paris Conservatoire all hell breaks loose - Thomas Seyr Sr. gets involved with a group of Russian mobsters fascinated with the subtle language of fist fighting and Thomas' associates from the broker company can no longer tolerate their colleague's newly-discovered passion for the piano.
Directed by Jacques Audiard De Battre mon Coeur s'est arrête a.k.a The Beat My Heart Skipped (2005) is a loose remake of James Toback's Fingers (1978) in which Harvey Keitel gave an unforgettable performance as the manic son willing to fulfill his father's crazy wishes. In The Beat My Heart Skipped, however, Romain Duris seems to be following a different path where the young Thomas resembles an updated version of a softer yet dangerously meticulous Vinz (Vincent Cassel) from Mathieu Kassovitz's La Haine (1995). The spontaneous decisions, the edgy acting, and last but not least the destructive intensity which Thomas conveys made me think about the chaotic order in which tragedy struck the main protagonists in La Haine. By all means similar is the environment in De Battre mon Coeur s'est arrête where when you least expect the film veers off in a dark territory where logic seems to be a forbidden term.
It is somewhat strange to see Romain Duris so good in the role of Thomas Seyr Jr. He literally fills up the screen with so much intensity that all of the secondary characters remain visibly shadowed by the turmoil Thomas undergoes. It is unnatural to witness all the rage, anger, and desire for revenge which Duris' character reveals only minutes after we have seen him gently playing the piano. Indeed, the enormous attention on detail which Jacques Audiard demands places this film amongst one of the best productions to come out of France in 2005.
Above all, however, what truly separates De Battre mon Coeur s'est arrête from James Toback's Fingers is the sense of chaos which both films seem to heavily rely on. In Fingers Harvey Keitel was walking down a path where one certainly knew the end will be tragic. In Jacques Audiard's film tragedy comes unexpected.
Thomas smoothly changes his temperament from being a sadistic maniac to being a seemingly dedicated piano player in virtually seconds and the audience is often unsure as to where this film is heading. Needless to say the finale is an emotional roller-coaster which will most certainly test the deductive skills of those who have the courage to predict Thomas' fate.
Jacques Audiard's De Battre mon Coeur s'est arrête is the winner of the Silver Bear Award for Best Music at the Berlin International Film Festival (2005) and the Audience Award-Best Director at the European Film Awards (2005).
How Does the DVD Look?
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and enhanced for widescreen TV's the print which Wellspring have provided for this film is actually quite good. Colors are well saturated and convincing, contrast is very satisfying, and the print appears to be in great condition (no print damage that I noticed). I did however notice some "combing" which naturally indicates that the film is not progressively transferred. There are also some compression artifacts that you are likely to notice if you should view this film on a high-end set up but in general I think that standard tube viewing should cause no problems whatsoever.
How Does the DVD Sound?
You could listen to the film in either French 2.0 or French 5.1 with optional English subtitles. I am happy to report that the 5.1 track is indeed very, very good. There is plenty of great music in this film and the mix provided for the DVD by Wellspring is very generous. Both the rears and (main) side speakers are used intelligently and as far as I am concerned only a DTS track can improve what we already have present on this DVD.
There are plenty of extras on this DVD which I assume have been replicated from the French set:
-An Original Theatrical Trailer
-Trailer Gallery for other Wellspring releases
-Deleted Scenes (there is an enormous amount of extra footage in this category. I counted well over 27 different cuts, scenes, and tiny bits of extra footage that have been omitted from the final cut. Highly recommended).
-Interviews- There are three different interviews in this fragment, one with the director Jacques Audiard, one with writer Tonino Benacquista, and one with composer Alexandre Desplat.
Superb acting, great script, and an amazing music score…truly, what else you could ask for? The Beat My Heart Skipped is without a doubt one of the best foreign language films to be released in 2005. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!