Watch IN BED: La collectionneuse

Images by Jessica Ellicott

“Now I’d live mornings in the right order, and associate them, as most people do, with the idea of awakening and beginning,” remarks Adrien, the protagonist of La collectionneuse, as he sets out on vacation with noble intentions of doing as little as possible. The third entry in Eric Rohmer’s Six Moral Tales, La collectionneuse is a sun-dappled reflection on the series’ central preoccupation: temptation, and our efforts to resist it. For Adrien, whose girlfriend is far away in London, temptation arrives in the form of Haydée, a short-haired, bronze-skinned ingenue who crashes the Côte d’Azur villa Adrien had hoped was solely his and his artist friend Daniel’s for the summer.

Haydée’s rhythms are decidedly incompatible with Adrien’s. He rises early to submerge himself face-down in the Mediterranean. She sleeps all day, after bringing home a different lover every night. Adrien and Daniel prefer to stay in, Haydée itches to go out. Her mere presence disturbs the two men, despite no real wrongdoing on her part. Affronted by the distraction her youthful beauty causes, and threatened by her uninhibited sexuality, they deem her “la collectionneuse” – a collector of men. Dismissing their narrow-minded appraisal, Haydée continues to go about her days unfazed, while Adrien comes to realise his contempt towards her is cloaked in the desire to be added to her collection.

The tensions between the trio are made to seem trivial by the idyllic coastal scenery that provides the backdrop to their discussions. Shot almost entirely using natural light by Néstor Almendros (who would go on to collaborate with Rohmer on several more films, as well as shooting Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven), La collectionneuse radiates with the seductive energy of a long summer day and its seemingly endless possibilities. Replete with warm golds and yellows, sparkling blue oceans and the delicate play of shadows against surfaces in afternoon light, the film’s realistic aesthetic works in tandem with its precisely observed approach to character. To further bestow a sense of authenticity to the film, Rohmer cast non-professional actors from his circle of friends, whose characters mostly keep their real first names, and are loosely based on their real-life personas.

One of the ideas most vividly evoked by La collectionneuse is how the act of doing nothing is a true art form in itself, one that is surprisingly difficult to master. Is it possible to enter into a state of true relaxation on holiday, without thoughts of life on the other side creeping in? Why does it feel necessary to seek some kind of distraction to keep ourselves occupied? Later on in the film, when Adrien finally has the house to himself, he is beset by an overwhelming sense of anxiety, and is unable to sleep. Even in the most favourable of circumstances, Rohmer shows us how freedom can act as both a liberating and an oppressive force.