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Film / A Heart In Winter

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A Heart in Winter (French: Un Coeur en hiver) is a love story film by French director Claude Sautet, released in 1992.

Stéphane (Daniel Auteuil) is an introverted and stoic violonist-maker and repairer associated with his best friend Maxime (André Dussollier). One day, Maxime reveals to Stéphane that he has been dating one of their client, a young violonist named Camille (Emmanuelle Béart). At first, Camille is annoyed by Stéphane's apparent indifference, but it's not long before she realizes that she has fallen passionately in love with him, and Stéphane has to come to terms with the fact that he might love her too.


This film provides examples of:

  • Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?: Possibly, Camille is somewhat annoyed that for all his manipulations, Stéphane didn't have sex with her.
  • Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: Downplayed, several months after Stéphane and Maxime's split up following the latter's manipulation, they reunite to help Lachaume put an end to his pain and ultimately Stéphane is the one to do it.
  • Celibate Hero: Stéphane, much to Camille's dismay. He goes on to say that he is "incapable" of such feelings; not as in "I am aromantic or asexual" but rather as a part of his personality.
    Roger Ebert: He is flattered, and overwhelmed; he finds her beautiful and desires her. That would be the end of the story, except that it gradually develops that Stephane is in no mood to commit himself to their relationship. He is not physically incapable, but it's as if his personality is impotent.
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  • Don't Think, Feel: What Camille urges Stéphane to do.
  • Driven to Suicide: Lachaume, Maxime and Stéphane's former teacher is dying from an unnamed illness, and asks to be put out of his misery because of the pain.
  • For the Evulz / It Amused Me: Possible reasons for Stéphane screwing with Camille's feelings.
  • Freudian Excuse: Played With, Stéphane rebukes Camille for trying to find some hidden explanation for being what he is.
    Stéphane: What do you want? Some childhood trauma? Some sexual frustration? Some disappointment regarding my vocation?
    • On the other hand, the film suggests that Stéphane does have inner issues, but is reluctant to acknowledge.
  • Hypocrite: Near the end of the film, Camille openly confesses her feelings to Stéphane and he rejects her. Some times later, she shames him for being so stoic and closed to passion despite the fact that during her confession she said that she accepted him for who he was. While the mocking could transpire as retribution for Stéphane playing with her feelings, her following comment about how he should have "fucked her", gives the impression that she's just bitter that Stéphane didn't make an exception for her. Additionally, her comment about "all the things they said to each other" to convince Stéphane that they should be together (which Stéphane point out is false). Justified as she's madly in love with him and after realizing that he manipulated her for kicks, she's just spitting hard truth to his face as retribution.
  • Ice King: Stéphane, probably one of the best male example of the trope. Overlaps with Empty Shell.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Maxime is in a casual relationship with Camille; when he realises her feelings for Stéphane, he steps aside and facilitates the two of them getting together under the guise of asking Stéphane to pick up Camille as a favour.
  • Loners Are Freaks: Averted for the most part. Most of Stéphane's friends acknowledge that he's not like everyone else and while some of them dislike him for his indifferent front, none of them seem to shame him for his lonely lifestyle.
  • Mad Love: Camille becomes obsessed with Stéphane to the point that her playing is alternatively lessened or bested whether she feels Stéphane reciprocates her feelings or not. She also confesses that she desires him and wants to sleep with him right away despite it not being the kind of thing she usually does.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Stéphane, upon realizing that Camille is in love with him and for a reason that remains ambiguous, decides to play on her attraction by alternating between spending time with her and avoiding her in order to make her yearn for him.
  • Oblivious to Love: Stéphane, or at least he pretends to be.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Camille gives Stéphane a harsh one at the end of the movie:
    Camille: (mocking tone) They say he loves music, because it's "dream stuff", because it got nothing to do with life. Jerk, you know nothing of dreams. You got no imagination, no heart, no balls. (pointing at his heart) You've got nothing in there.
  • Rejected Apology: Played With, Stéphane doesn't actually apologize (he explicitly says that he didn't come for this) but Camille rebukes him anyway.
  • Safety in Indifference: A possible explanation for Stéphane's refusal to acknowledge his feelings, whether it'd be his friendship with Maxime or his love for Camille. See The Stoic below.
  • The Stoic: Stéphane rarely shows any emotion. Even when his best friend strikes him and when he has to kill his mentor. However, the film deconstructs this trope to some degree as Stéphane might not show his feelings but the viewer see multiple times that he's not as indifferent as he would like to believe. His relationships with Camille and Maxime showcases this: he seduces the latter (apparently for the fun of the ordeal) and justifies this by pretending that Maxime (who he has known and worked with for years) isn't his friend. However, it's shown that beneath his façade of indifference and in spite of everything he says that Stéphane does love Camille and does feel close to Maxime. The core of the drama of the film is watching a man who is so detached from everyone around him and is so used to being an observer in his own life that he believes he can't get emotionally involved with anyone and has to remains at a safe distance.