Le Roi du Coeur (King of Hearts)

A soldier holding a bird cage
Alan Bates in King of Hearts

I love this film! While poking fun at soldiers and society, Philippe de Broca makes a very strong, and very obvious, anti-war statement. Starting with a totally insignificant MacGuffin, (opens in a new window), the director takes us down a delightfully silly path of posturing generals, idiot soldiers (except for one), and a cast of wonderfully inane psychiatric patients. 

Alan Bates stars as the one totally sane soldier in the plot but he is very ably assisted by a strong supporting cast of dreamers, dancers and incredibly entertaining duffuses (duffus is a Canadian word for a very silly person). A very young Genevieve Bujold is the love interest, Adolfo Celi plays a Scottish general, if you can believe it, and the plot is paper thin but that really doesn’t matter here.

There is really no harm in giving the story away but I’ll leave it to you to see the film. It’s harmless, gentle and brilliant. Sometimes a director can say more by making you laugh than by hitting you over the head with drama and convoluted plots. Just relax and enjoy the sights and sounds of a tiny French village whose inhabitants have almost all abandoned it. The town, Senlis in France, is simply beautiful, full of wonderful old buildings and cobbled streets.   The film is set in the First World War and the Allies are making efforts to free France from the hated Huns. 

If you look up any of the lists of famous anti-war films, King of Hearts will be on it. It didn’t do well commercially but soon became a cult film in the United States after it’s international release. The humor and message of the movie stand up to scrutiny even today, 44 years after it was released.  

Almost every film, hell every film, is about dreaming and someone’s vision of reality. The most beautiful line is this movie, translated from the original French, is “The most beautiful journeys are taken through the window.” Well, catch this film somehow and take a gentle journey through the window of Philippe de Broca’s eye. I can’t guarantee that you will enjoy it but you won’t forget it. 

Thanks for reading!

Alan Bates and Genvieve Bujold in King of Hearts
A special scene in a special film.

5 thoughts on “Le Roi du Coeur (King of Hearts)”

  1. What does the final line mean? Does it mean that our dreams are more beautiful than reality? And why does the Duke of Clubs drop his expression at the end of saying it? He says something beautiful, then looks at us as if we are the ‘others’.

    1. I think your assessment is correct. The dream that the inmates live in is much more beautiful than the raw and dangerous reality outside. We are ‘the other’s’, right? This movie is our window into the craziness in which we live, and the asylum is certainly more peaceful and beautiful than a real one. The point of the film isn’t to show us what an asylum looks like, rather to show us the insanity of what we accept as normal. His expression changes because, I think, he knows that the reality shown in the movie isn’t real at all but, maybe, he wishes it was.
      Thanks for commenting!

      1. Thanks Brian, I have heard that people love the great lines in this movie, including the last line, but I never heard anyone discuss what it all meant. The King of Hearts is one of my all time favorites.

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