Les Amour Imaginaires (Dolan, 2009)

There is not a scrap of love in this film

With his first feature, Je Tue Ma Mere,  Xavier Dolan chose for himself a very personal topic. On his second outing he explores the superficiality of youth,  the romantic ideal, and what happens when an ideal proves impossible. Marie and Francis dress to impress. They are, perhaps, just as attracted to themselves as to the object of affection, the “self-satisfied Adonis” Nicolas. I would never say that this is a film which has anything to do with love. There is not a scrap of love in this film. Characters mistake infatuation and idealism for love, never realizing that it is this falseness which ultimately destroys their connections with others. Throughout the film, we see clips of individuals recounting their failed romance. It feels as though the people about whom they are speaking of are interchangeable and could be any character in the film. That is because it is less the person that matters than what they imagine the person to be.

Both Marie and Francis pursue Nicolas with abandon, in turn Nicolas shows affection to one then the other, never failing in his inconsistency.  They compete with each other, insult each other, buy Nicolas very expensive gifts, all for the sake of bringing Nicolas closer without realizing that they are hurting their friendship. It is clear to us throughout that Nicolas does not want anything serious with either of them, that he finds their eagerness and expectations odd and a turn off. Marie and Francis cannot see this because they are so wrapped up in what they want, what they want Nicolas to be to them. Stylistically, Dolan drives this point home with the use of slow-motion intervals and a repetitive soundtrack (a la Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood For Love) usually appearing when the duo arrive somewhere new. This device emphasizes attraction and movement, the ways in which one will gaze upon a love interest, admiring every turn of the body or nervous smile.


I feel that this film is grounded within film itself. Love in films is often portrayed as the romantic ideal, and these films often end right at the beginning of a relationship. We never see real love in these films because real love is often dirty and hard and we would much rather believe that everything is roses. In Les Amour Imaginaire, we are seeing what truly happens to romantic love if it does not grow. It becomes an insidious obsession. In Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona , Juan Antonio says that the only true romantic love is love that is unrequited. If only because romance cannot exist as a practical thing for more than a short time. It is irrational, violent, and painful.

When Marie and Francis attend Nicolas’ birthday party, they are shocked out of their own self-obsession. The party scene is preceded by the slow-motion technique as they get ready. Both are dressed to the nines in vintage evening wear, carrying their gifts. They seem enmeshed in some ideal of propriety and are out of touch with others their own age. The slow-motion continues as they walk to the party, their theme played over the scene. When they reach the party, the music changes to ‘Jump Around’ and we realise we have come upon a young person’s birthday party, replete with booze, dim lighting, sour faced teenaged girls. Marie and Francis have been knocked clean out of their own heads. The girls stare at Marie as if she was an alien, Nicolas is trashed and their gifts are derided as ‘cute’. This scene is a nice indication of how little interest Marie and Francis have in actually knowing Nicolas as a person. All they care about is what they want and how they look, setting the stage for the later heartbreak.

Neither of them learn their lesson. Near the end, the film jumps forward a year to a scene of Marie and Francis at another party. It ends with them locking eyes with yet another ‘Adonis’ This is, of course, completely understandable considering that the actor is Louis Garrel.

As the film fades to black, the dance begins again.

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