Le Bonheur (1965 film)

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Le Bonheur
Le Bonheur (1965 film).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Agnès Varda
Written byAgnès Varda
Produced byMag Bodard
Starring Jean-Claude Drouot
Claire Drouot
CinematographyClaude Beausoleil
Jean Rabier
Edited byJanine Verneau
Music by Jean-Michel Defaye
Distributed byColumbia
Release date
  • 2 January 1965 (1965-01-02)
Running time
80 minutes

Le Bonheur ("Happiness") is a 1965 French drama film directed by Agnès Varda. [1] [2] The film is associated with the French New Wave and won two awards at the 15th Berlin International Film Festival, including the Jury Grand Prix. [3]



François, a handsome young joiner working for his uncle, lives a comfortable and happy life married to his pretty wife Thérèse, a dressmaker, with whom he has two delightful children, Pierrot and Gisou. The family love outings to the woods outside of town. Although finding abundant happiness in his life and indisputably loving his wife and children, François falls for Émilie, an attractive single woman working in the post office, who has a flat of her own and looks very like Thérèse.

Picnicking in the woods one weekend, Thérèse asks François why he seems so particularly happy of late. He explains that all his existing happiness with her and the children is not changed in any way but has been increased by the new happiness he has found with Émilie. Initially, she is upset at the revelation, but then accepts it, saying her world is his happiness. Putting the children to sleep under a tree, Thérèse encourages François to make love to her. He falls asleep afterwards and, waking up, finds Thérèse gone. Searching desperately, he finds her body that anglers have retrieved from the lake.

After a spell in the country, where relatives are looking after the children, François returns to work and looks up Émilie. Soon she is living in his house, looking after him and the children. The family are all very happy together and love to go on outings to the woods outside of town. He has once again found abundant happiness in his life, indisputably loving his new wife and children.


François' wife and children are played by Jean-Claude Drouot's real-life family in their only film appearances. [4]


In a 2019 tribute to Agnes Varda, Sheila Heti, AS Hamrah, and Jenny Chamarette included Le Bonheur among their favourite of Varda's films, with Charmarette claiming it as her favourite and describing it as "like nothing else: a horror movie wrapped up in sunflowers, an excoriating feminist diatribe strummed to the tune of a love ballad. It’s one of the most terrifying films I’ve ever seen." Hamrah called Le Bonheur "Varda’s most shocking movie," adding "it’s deeply subversive and works like a horror film...How many films are truly shocking the way Le Bonheur is? I don’t think there are any others." While Heti stated "I don’t have a favourite, but the one I think about most often is probably Le Bonheur because it had such a devastating ending. It is perhaps the most straightforward in terms of story-telling, yet truly radical – emotionally radical, come the end...It’s impossible to stop thinking about this ending and what it says about love, life, chaos, and fate." [5]

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  1. "Le Bonheur / Happiness". unifrance.org. Retrieved 2014-02-21.
  2. Weiler, A. H. (14 May 1966) "'Le Bonheur' at the Fine Arts:A Moving but Immature Treatment of Love Agnes Varda Chooses a Renoir Background." The New York Times . Retrieved on 15 May 2009.
  3. "Berlinale 1965: Prize Winners". berlinale.de. Retrieved 2010-02-21.
  4. Taubin, Amy. "Le bonheur: Splendor in the Grass". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 17 July 2015.
  5. Hamrah, AS; Barber-Plentie, Grace; Chamarette, Jenny; Reardon, Kiva; Elkin, Lauren; Labidi, Samia; Flitterman-Lewis, Sandy; Heti, Sheila (2019-04-08). "After Agnès Varda: A Discussion". AnotherGaze.com. Another Gaze. Retrieved 2020-06-08.