15 September 2004 | dbdumonteil
an initiation to life
One of the biggest French success of the year 2002, "l'auberge espagnole" was also very well greeted abroad which is quite extraordinary for a French film. It is not difficult to define the reasons of this success. This movie made by one of the most interesting French film-makers of these last years, Cédric Klapisch, presents students coming from all over Europe and gathered all together under the same roof in Barcelona. These students are described like the ones you imagine or you see in everyday life: either untidy, either serious or with a sense of humor. I guess that if the movie worked so well, it is because a lot of students must have recognized themselves in the main characters' portraits and especially Xavier's.
We follow the movie and so his experience abroad as an Erasmus student through his eyes. Xavier is really an ordinary student with his qualities, his faults. An intelligent making with quite a lot of ingenious ideas perfectly expresses his lost mind and his anxiety about the world and being an Erasmus student. On that subject, the best examples can be found in two sequences. The first one is when Xavier asks a woman at university for the papers he has to send to prepare his DEA. When the same woman informs him about the different necessary procedures, all the papers appear on the screen when she is naming them! In the next sequence, Xavier's voice-over confides to the spectator his vision of the modern world. Now, where to find the second example? Well, the scene where Xavier has a thorough medical examination during which Klapisch films his visions is widely sufficient to speak of itself.
Moreover, the director wasn't really interested by his main character's studies. He left this point low-key. He rather put a lot of effort into Xavier's private life, of course, in his love affair with Anne Sophie but also and especially in his relations with his fellow tenants. It is a real friendship story that Klapisch shows us with its moments of happiness but also its arguments and its tensions. Through Xavier's adventure and at the end of his stay, he will have been initiated into life which will make him more mature. The message that the author wanted to transmit isn't difficult to guess. You naively believe that you live in an untidy and complicated world. You mustn't give up but intensively search to get what you want even if it is difficult.
Apart from this, we could also fear that with the topic, Cédric Klapisch wouldn't avoid a trap: the clichés. Let's be frank about it: they are included in the screenplay but the director does his best not to spread them too much in his movie. Then, the screenplay contains convenient and predictable moments: at the airport and before boarding we see Xavier shedding a tear after he left his family. But fortunately the shortcomings of the script stop here. Quite funny dialogs and cool young actors perfectly at ease in their roles make up the whole.
In spite of its weaknesses, "l'auberge espagnole" is to be taken for a success in the movie of young people. Besides, the whole atmosphere it brings out lets us think that this movie is directed primarily to a young audience. Ultimately, the end of the movie and its big success let us suggest that Klapisch succumbed to a fashion that goes right for American cinema: the elaboration of sequels. And indeed, the film-maker currently works on a sequel entitled "les poupées russes". Let's hope that it will be as good as "l'auberge espagnole".