The Accompanist, this week’s movie at the San Francisco Alliance Française, focuses on the relationship which develops, in wartime Paris, between a young pianist and her employer, a famed opera singer. Based on the novel by Nina Berberova, the film is directed by Claude Miller, and stars Romane Bohringer, Elena Safonova and Richard Bohringer (the Bohringers are father and daughter).
The action takes place in 1942, against the grim backdrop of Nazi-occupied Paris. Sophie Vasseur (Romane Bohringer) is a young and impoverished pianist, living with her mother, and for whom life holds little joy until she’s hired by an accomplished opera singer, Irene Brice (Elena Safonova) as her accompanist. Irene and her possessive husband Charles (Richard Bohringer) are among those Parisians who still manage to maintain a luxurious apartment, and indulge in a lifestyle of parties, receptions and recitals – the reason being that Charles, who is also Irene’s manager, is collaborating with the Nazis – albeit with a troubled conscience.
Sophie, who doesn’t have Irene’s confidence or social skills, “both loves and hates the wealthy and prepossessing Irene”, says The Movie Guide review, adding “…. the movie reveals the pain, sorrow and loneliness of a person who can only watch life pass by and not participate in the joy of friendship”. Sophie does, however, absorb much about Irene and her life, becoming obsessed by her, and taking on the role of her maid as well as her accompanist, in which capacity she realizes that Irene is having an affair with a member of the Resistance – whilst married to a Nazi collaborator. As the Roger Ebert review says: “What she [Sophie] sees, and what she thinks about it, are what make Claude Miller’s The Accompanist so absorbing”.
The film won Miller the FIPRESCI Prize and the Special Prize of the Jury at the 1993 Istanbul International Film Festival, and was one of the award winners in the Top Foreign Films category at the 1993 National Board of Review in the USA.
The Accompanist (rated PG) will be shown in French with English subtitles at the Alliance Française, 1345 Bush Street, on Tuesday, August 30, at 7.00 pm. Admission is free, but a donation of $5 is suggested.