The Tavianis\' adaptation of Goethe\'s novel may seem strangely restrained compared to their other fables, but it\'s still a work of exquisite elegance and precision. Set in Tuscany during the Napoleonic era, it charts the forces of attraction and repulsion that shape the complex relationships between a happily married baron and his wife (Anglade, Huppert), the baron\'s architect friend (Bentivoglio) and the wife\'s goddaughter (Gillain). If the story itself (engrossing enough) never seems very much more than an unusually formal period romance, the immaculate performances and the Tavianis\' masterly control of colour, composition and music (a poignant but unexpectedly modernist score from Carlo Crivelli) make for absorbing viewing.
Twenty years ago Baron Edoardo (Jean-Hugues Anglade) and Countess Caroltta (Isabelle Huppert) were madly in love. Now older and presumably wiser they accidentally meet at a local reception in a luxury Tuscan villa. Committed not to allow that fate takes the love of his life yet again Baron Edoardo promptly proposes to the Countess. A beautiful wedding is quickly arranged and what the two lovers could not have twenty years ago is now a reality.
For Carlotta and Eduardo life is full of joy and laughter. The lavish Tuscan estate where the newly-wed reside is a place where nothing is missing. To share his joy Baron Edoardo decides to invite Otto (Fabrizio Bentivoglio), an architect and a close friend. Upon arrival at the villa, however, Otto is greeted by the Countess with a tenuous concern as she seems unwilling to share the serenity of her new home. Shortly after, she invites her goddaughter Ottilie (Marie Gillain).
After a sweltering day at Baron Edoardo\'s estate Carlotta reads for the two couples a text exploring the \"elective affinities\"- a theory explaining the dependency between similar substances and their ability to create couples that naturally disband when a new element enters the equation. What ensues is a complicated story of shared romance, similar to the theory read by Carlotta, involving Baron Eduardo and Ottilie, and Countess Carlotta and Otto.
Based on Goethe\'s Elective Affinities this exceptionally poignant Italian-French film by the Taviani brothers is a beauty to behold. Naturally recreating the passion so typical for German Romanticism which Goethe exemplified during the 19th century Le Affinita Elettive in my opinion ranks between the Taviani\'s best alongside Kaos (1984), Padre padrone (1977), and Sotto il Segno dello Scorpione (1969).
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