800 Kilometres’ Difference

Claire Simon

France, 2001, 90 min. & 58 min

The film revolves around the relationship of two young lovers separated by geography: 15-year-old Manon from Paris, the filmmaker’s own daughter, and Greg, 17, who lives in Claviers, a withdrawn village in the south of France.

800km-site“Some have two years, five years, ten years’ difference; we have 800 kilometres” difference, says Manon. And 800 kilometres is more than just a physical separation. There is a whole world of difference between the life of a young woman studying in Paris and the rural life of a young man who helps his father to bake bread in the bakery at night. The camera captures the quiet affection in this father-son relationship, which is also a working relationship. We get to know Greg’s family and the family’s Italian roots of which Greg is proud. Unlike his grandfather who considers himself French.

Claire Simon observes Manon and Greg who reunite for the summer in the village where the filmmaker spent her own childhood. Neither Manon nor Greg seem to mind the camera’s presence. Simon succeeds in filming the love affair of her own daughter without infringing on the intimacy and privacy of the young couple. Sometimes she asks questions from behind the camera; sometimes Greg and Manon just let their thoughts out in the open.

“I’m totally convinced we’ll marry and have children”, says Manon in a moment of confidence, and in spite of the cultural gap between her and Greg, we’re tempted to believe her and in the old adage of ‘love conquers all’. At least Manon and Greg are able to accept and tolerate each other’s differences, which is an important ability.

The issue of cultural differences is expressed with elegance and humour. Greg and Manon read on the beach: Manon is reading Flaubert, while the title of Greg’s book is “How to Obtain Your Fishing Permit”.

There is a great tenderness and maybe even a touch of nostalgia in Claire Simon’s images of the village and villagers, the baker and his son at work, yawning Manon lazily lying in the hammock, the empty interiors of the house and garden.

The observation of the different moods and feelings experienced by the young protagonists – longing, love, vanity, boredom, fatigue, impatience, happiness, unhappiness – is done with grace and avoids the cliché.

Modern Times Review