When I was a student Erasmus seemed the thing to do. For those who don’t know it, Erasmus is a mostly European student exchange programme. Many people say that it’s just a social experience and a time waster but I know quite a few people who thanks to Erasmus ended up in PhD programmes. Having said that the trilogy by Cédric Klapisch focuses on human aspect of the student exchange.
The narrator of the whole trilogy is Xavier. He’s the only character that we see enough of to relate to. The first part of the trilogy, “The Spanish apartment” better known as “L’Auberge Espagnole”, tells a tale of students who end up in Spain thanks to Erasmus. Xavier somewhat unwillingly leaves his long-term partner behind to “get some experience”. In such a way starts a three movie long tale of a writer and a constant traveller. Xavier as most students is underfunded and it’s nearly impossible to support himself on the maigre stipend. That’s why he ends up sharing a room which makes getting some intimacy a real challenge. He finds his ways, however, not only to keep a relationship going but even to cheat. He has more or less funny encounters with representatives of many nationalities, subcultures and sexual preferences. The surreal manner of story telling makes the movie more interesting but it is a bit silly.
The second part, “Russian Dolls”, is more serious as one of previously careless students decides to get hitched with a Russian lady he met when working there. His friends who come for the wedding seem more mature than they used to be, but the main character is still a cheat who ignores depth of his new relationship to chase some pussy. He “realizes what’s important in life” eventually but he remains a narcissistic character that doesn’t really know what he wants. The movie is a quite unrealistic love story. It’s biggest advantage is depiction of life in Russia. Yet again, the relations and characters seem very superficial.
The third part, “Chinese Puzzle” focuses mostly on Xavier and his failed marriage. Just like before he went to Russia without problems now he moves to New York to follow his kids. All the moving around is shown as if it was the simplest thing in the world and if dealing with bureaucracy was actually an easy task. I must say it’s very annoying to look at this unrealistic vision being an expat. On the top of it, by part three, one is just annoyed with Xavier. He’s a successful writer but doesn’t seem to find any pleasure in it. His family life was idyllic but he doesn’t seem to appreciate it. When the whole trilogy comes to a happy ending we can’t help to doubt that it’s only yet another temporary one. Xavier seems to be always looking for something better and different and by the end of the series, the viewer doesn’t really want to know what he’s up to next.
You could ask me why I kept watching the movies if I didn’t like them that much…It was probably because they all had interesting elements. I could also partially relate to some feelings that the main character had. However, the superficiality and lightness were annoying. Flings are flings and students should have fun befre they settle. There’s a difference between having fun when both sides want the same thing and hurting someone who was invested in a relationship. By the same token, travelling can be a great thing, but everyone needs a home even if in foreign land.
Dear Rinsers, do you know the movies? Have you had your own international experiences? Or maybe you were exchange students yourselves?