Sunday, 16 May 2010


Set in rural Gaul in the 5th century, French directing legend Eric Rohmer’s swan song concerns the love between shepherd Celadon and shepherdess Astrea. The young lovers are blighted by the disapproval of Celadon’s parents, but when Astrea mistakes Celadon’s use of a pretend girlfriend for infidelity, the relationship buckles under the strain. Having witnessed Celadon run into the river, Astrea believes that he has drowned and finds herself inconsolable. However, Celadon is kept alive by a group of nymphs who give him the confidence to return to the village in the hopes of finding Astrea again and winning back her heart.

In essence, it’s a simple Romeo and Juliet story in a bucolic setting. Rohmer presents his youthful protagonists as victims of circumstance, their core emotions otherwise unshakable. But as pure as its message is, The Romance of Astrea and Celadon takes a long time to say ver little. Too much of the film is afforded to characters literally reading poetry. What frustrates most however is that the romantic hysterics see no representation in the mise-en-scène – with the beautiful sweeping backdrop of a verdant valley, it’s a disappointment that the battle of emotions is left entirely up to the young cast, who appear a little wet behind the ears. To put it bluntly, one could just as easily be watching an amateur production in the woods. An undercooked, inflated melodrama which often feels like Shakespeare manqué, The Romance of Astrea and Celadon should only be seen by Rohmer completists.

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