‘Heartbeats’ gets audiences’ blood pumping

by Jack Crane

Courtesy of IFC Films
Courtesy of IFC Films

Twenty-one-year-old Xavier Dolan already “killed his mother” in his 2009 indie flick, starred in “Martyrs” — arguably the most horrifying film of all time — and with his second turn in the directors seat, he is attempting to create a visual masterpiece.

“Heartbeats” features Francis (Dolan), or Frankie as he is fondly referred to in the film, as a stylish homosexual living in contemporary France with his best friend Marie (Monia Chokri). A rift is set early between the two in the form of a stunning, blond-haired, blue-eyed young gentleman by the name of Nicolas (Niels Schneider). With both Frankie and Marie vying for Nicolas’ affection, backstabbing quickly ensues.

Neither of the two protagonists are sure of Nicolas’ sexuality, so small gestures on his behalf soon become solid affirmations. A welcoming kiss on the cheek to Frankie and he’s gay, while a slightly extended hug for Marie “proves” he’s straight.

In between the delicious, lovely and vicious words of the characters, the rest of the crew works its magic with sound, cinematography and costume.

Cinematographer Stephanie Anne Weber Biron sets an ethereal-like environment for the characters to frolic, quite commonly in slow motion. Close-ups of Marie’s delicate skin and cutaways of Frankie’s ever-changing wardrobe keep viewers’ eyes wide open, not in the creepy way “Minority Report” did, but in the loving and adoring way similar to viewing “Amélie.”

However, without the help of Sophie Beasse in the costume department, the movie would not be complete. Known for her work on “The Day After Tomorrow,” there’s no doubt she will soon be known for “Heartbeats.” She turns regular orange sweaters and pink dresses into tangerine cashmere and rose velvet works of art. Meanwhile, sound designer Sylvain Brassard slips flickers of heartbeats and soft breaths into the underlying soundtrack.

“Heartbeats” is definitely light on the quantity of dialogue, but then again, what French film isn’t. Yet the quality of the small script is perfect. Visual light back and forth between the threesome of characters provides the perfect backdrop for the more important element of the film, which clearly becomes the mise en scène. For those who want a film that exudes erotic visual elements — such as a constant stream of melting chocolate — while keeping minds at ease with a simple but gorgeous script, “Heartbeats” is definitely recommended.