Hiding Behind Chocolate in Romantics Anonymous
by Suejette Black
Food is a remedy. One can push away pain by indulging in their favorite treat or can create food as a therapeutic form of self-expression. In Romantics Anonymous (2010), the two cripplingly shy protagonists use chocolate as a way to shield themselves from the outside world while simultaneously finding their place in it.
At first Angelique and Jean-Ren use their passion for chocolate to mask their emotional handicaps and avoid leading a normal life. Working in a small, failing chocolate mill in France, the boss, Jean-Ren, orders around his employees and forms no relationships with them because his social anxiety makes him come off as a cold man. Angelique is sweet but also deathly afraid of attention and though she is a famous chocolatier her work is done anonymously. When the owner of her store dies, she struggles to find work because she refuses to make herself know. Both Angelique and Jean-Ren absorb themselves in making chocolate so that they do not have to deal with the struggles of forming real relationships. Although they are doing what they love, it seems that in ways their focus on chocolate is preventing them from truly living and enjoying all that life has to offer.
Once Angelique and Jean-Ren begin working together though, their connection through their love of chocolate brings them together and allows them to overcome their social anxiety. In a scene in which Angelique pretends to be communicating with the famous anonymous chocolatier so that the mill can come up with a new line in order to save the business, a more relaxed side of the two is shown as they work with the chocolate. Though Angelique is still disguising herself, it is clear she is comfortable in the kitchen and allows her to communicate better with the staff and Jean-Ren. The non-diagetic orchestra music rises and falls with the chocolate making, giving a playful feel to the scene. The camera cuts between shots of her moving around the kitchen instructing the other workers and often shows point of view shots of the chocolate. The music then builds and adds suspense as her coworkers start to realize her true identity. The music culminates as the camera does an overhead panning shot of an illuminated counter of finished chocolates. As the two try the chocolates there is only the diagetic sounds of their voices and the chocolates crunching while they discuss the tastes and textures. The bantering back and forth seems very easy compared to their usual struggle to converse and the lack of background music makes it feel even more natural. The dimly lit room in the background provides focus just to their faces and the chocolate. As they discuss the chocolate in sensual terms the camera slowly zooms in to a medium-close shot of just the two of them. Their shared understanding of chocolate and the chemistry between the two is obvious.
The film editing in Romantics Anonymous highlights how a food passion can open up even the most reserved people and provide a comfortable place for expression and discovery.
Romantics Anonymous. Dir. Jean-Pierre Ameris. Perf. Benoit Poelvoorde, Isabelle Carre. StudioCanal, 2010. ITunes. Web.