“Si t’as un coeur” / through the eyes of…

“Si t’as un coeur” seen through the eyes of Sarah Schlüssel, member of the preselection team of Berlinale Shorts.

“You have no heart,” Yuna tells Arthur – but they all do, and too much of it. It is summer in rural France, nature is in full bloom. Arthur, Yuna, Lucie and Jurijn are 17 years old. They are teenagers, and every emotion is experienced through a magnifying glass: desire, pain, confusion.

“Si t’as un coeur” (“Young Hearts”) is not an easy summer film. The characters and their relationships are complex, and so is their emotional turmoil. As a teenager – or, at least, this is how I remember it – all these feelings you suddenly have are hard to digest. Sometimes they overflow and burst out, sometimes they stay quiet and run deep.

Jurijn and Lucie don’t find it easy to fit in. Jurijn is no party guy and has difficulty connecting with his peers. He is desperate, suicidal even. In “Spring Awakening”, the play by Frank Wedekind by which “Si t’as un coeur” is loosely inspired, young Moritz Stiefel can no longer take the pressure and shame of not living up to expectations; in the end, he takes his own life. Like Ilse and Moritz in “Spring Awakening”, Lucie meets Jurijn in a moment of absolute despair. They share happy childhood memories and a short, tender moment. Lucie has dropped out of school: she is another outsider, looking to find solace in physical contact. “People are talking about you,” Jurijn tells her. Earlier on in the film, Lucie is running through fields, alone, preparing for the party in the evening, squeezing into tight jeans. She moves outside of social conventions; she dances freely like no one is watching.

Arthur and Yuna were a couple, or so it seems. Now, he is hurt and she is determined to win him back. She goes to the lake where she knows she will find him and stages a meeting – in such a cool way that it blows my 17-year-old self’s mind. She tells him a story about Lucie and her abusive father – and we wonder, is this story real, or is Yuna inventing things to catch his attention? Everyone is experimenting, playing parts to test reactions; it is no easy task to find yourself. Like Wendla in Wedekind’s play, Yuna asks Arthur to hit her because she wants to feel how it feels; (innocent) curiosity mixes with desire.

All four actors’ performances are exceptional; some details, some gestures are so true they really get to me. Yuna goes swimming in her top, and she keeps covering her belly and her thighs with her bag – as you do when you are young and hellishly insecure about your body. Jurijn cannot give in to Lucie’s advances even though he might like to – maybe the situation is too intimate, maybe he is too shy; more fuel for self-doubt.

We have small truths such as these insecurities, and we have the big, overflowing feelings which come together to form what it is like to be that age. What is real, what can we believe? How can we navigate this life? The big drama, the theatre stage that is youth.

Sarah Schlüssel is a cultural manager and film programmer. She is a member of the Berlinale Shorts selection committee, coordinates the Short Form Station of Berlinale Talents, and co-founded shorts/salon.

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