Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet’s short film Pauline Enslaved (Pauline Asservie) brings Ronald Barthes’ 1977 work A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments into the age of smartphones.
Opened with a quote from Barthes’ chapter on waiting (‘Am I in love? Yes, since I am waiting.’), the film follows Pauline (Anaïs Demoustier) on a countryside trip with her friend Violette (Sigrid Bouaziz) as she anxiously awaits a text message back from her lover. It is a situation that renders Pauline, an intellectual who reads de Beauvoir and references Descartes, as helpless and restless as a love-struck schoolgirl.
To quote Barthes, this fiercely intelligent woman has been weakened to an ‘immensely pathetic’ state by the whims of love. Yet it is a state – no matter how neurotic Pauline may seem at times – that many of us can relate to.
Has he read my message? Should I send a follow-up text? What if he’s dead? These are just a few of the questions a tortured Pauline asks as she cycles through a range of scenarios and emotions, her own literary inquisitiveness agitating her further.
Technology also brings fresh tangles to her one-sided relationship woes. A walk through the countryside with Violette turns into a brisk power walk to find signal. While any ringtone is met with life-or-death urgency followed by despair when the message is not from the desired person.
Pauline’s unravelling at the hands of an unanswered text message makes for an engulfing watch thanks to zippy dialogue full of whit. Pauline’s irritated energy ricochets wonderfully off Violette’s relaxed nature. Credit to Demoustier and Bouaziz who create that near-tangible feeling of two old friends who know each other inside out.
Pauline Enslaved is a brilliant short bursting with energy, intellect and a few good laughs.
Hopefully we will not be left waiting too long to see Bourgeois-Tacquet’s flair for dialogue and pacing realised in a feature film.
Images by Année Zéro