The Accompanist (1992)

  • Year: 1992
  • Released: 23 Dec 1993
  • Country: France
  • Adwords: 3 wins & 4 nominations
  • IMDb:
  • Rotten Tomatoes:
  • Metacritics:
  • Available in: 720p, 1080p,
  • Language: French
  • MPA Rating: PG
  • Genre: Drama, Music, Romance
  • Runtime: 102 min
  • Writer: Claude Miller, Luc Béraud, Nina Berberova
  • Director: Claude Miller
  • Cast: Richard Bohringer, Elena Safonova, Romane Bohringer
  • Keywords: nazi, love, betrayal, singer, maid, pianist,
0% – Critics

The Accompanist Storyline

In Nazi-occupied Paris, a young accompanist named Sophie Vasseur gets a job with famed singer Irene Brice. As Irene’s husband Charles, a businessman collaborating with the Nazis, wrestles with his conscience, Sophie becomes obsessed with Irene, taking on the role of maid as well as accompanist, living life vicariously through Irene’s triumphs and affairs.—Gary Dickerson

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The Accompanist Movie Reviews

another winning film from france

A seemingly small but strongly rendered film. Sophie, 20, lives in the poor quarter of Paris but is a talented and completely understated pianist. She gains employment as the accompanist for wealthy and daringly honest woman, a professional singer who graces the film with lush performances from Massenet, Brahms, Mozart etc… Yet she is a woman beholden to her husband who is himself in ‘import-export’ during WWII, ie. playing off both sides as long as he can. He’s outspoken, she’s a songbird with emotional depth and secrets, and the accompanist is near mute–observing, spying, daring herself to act and to reveal secrets, yet always loyal to her master.

Over and over the film goes to Sophie’s face, watching her reactions, gauging what she’s thinking of and what she might do next. And always, Romane Bohringer is up to the task. This is a great performance by a young French lead, comparable to Elodie Bouchez in La Vie Revee des Anges, but here she is wholly deferring, only gaining enough courage to talk to herself in the mirror. Always on the precipice of action, her almost blank impassive face gives the film tremendous suspense and great feeling.

The metaphors of the film are simple and mercifully left unspoken: if accompianment subsumes the self to the master performer, collaboration is a marriage that cannot be tolerated. In this way, the film speaks to the French dilemma and guilt of WWII but does so through the lens of marriage and the distant observer who becomes wound closer around the marriage bond than even she realizes, with startling results. If the key moment is about misdirection, then the film as a whole is about whether we allow ourselves to be misdirected.

The focus is small, but the themes are large and subtlely drawn. Likewise, the production is top notch–clear and never showy. The direction is near flawless, and the music is bright and finely wrought. You’ll watch it for the music, for Bohringer pere et fille, but the story is every bit as interesting and patiently rendered as it needs to be. This is neither avant-garde, nor epic as we tend to expect much French fare is; it is closer in spirit to Patrice Leconte’s work, but even more muted, but no less honest and surprising.

Sophie’s choice

Among the wonderful musical performances in this film, I think the best reason to watch is for the portrayal of Sophie. We see her awakening. The actress is perfect in her performance. Sophie is portrayed as a sad sort of person, deeply touched by anything. The ending is a bit unexpected. I found myself yearning for more for Sophie. She is so naive and inexperienced, even after working with Irene.

The costume and lighting in this film are very well done. Distinct scenes stand out in my mind, even though I saw it a few years ago. I recommend this film to anyone interested in French film or World War II-era portrayals. What a powerful film.

War and other evils at work

Paris –1943. Paris is going through one of the hardest winters of its history -occupied and tortured by the Germans, freezing and starving, the City of Light hardly deserves its name. But Sophie Vasseur only just witnesses that misery. She has been recruited as the accompanist of Irene Brice, an opera singer, one of the few ‘lights’ still shining in Paris. Her husband Charles, a brilliant and rich businessman who loves her passionately, efficiently supports her agents and sponsors in protecting her from the unbearable reality, and Sophie, the shadow, cuddles in the shelter. Through all the ordeals that cost the life of so many, Charles carries Irene and Sophie, not even surprised to find themselves safe in London. But untouched by the universal suffering, Irene will create her own. Sophie could do something, but, unable to get out of her role of passive shadow and to understand she has power on her own, will she? A fascinating picture of destiny and how it affects human beings, whether they try to control it or not. Beautiful classical music too.