This week, the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center (PAC) Guelcher Film Series features a French drama set amidst the sun-draped island of Corsica.
“Queen to Play” is the debut film of director Caroline Bottaro.
The plot chronicles a mid-life journey to self-discovery and the attainment of newfound passions.
At the core of the film, is the vivid transformation of leading character Hélène, played by actress Sandrine Bonnaire. Hélène is a middle-aged, repressed yet intelligent woman who works as a chambermaid in an exclusive seaside hotel.
One morning, while at work, Hélène comes upon a captivating American couple playing chess out in the terrace of their room. She becomes fascinated with the seductive manner in which they move the pieces about the board.
She notices that the woman seems to be dominating the play. Thus, Hélène associates chess with the notion of romance and feminine power.
She develops an infatuation with the game, which she carries into her home when she gives her husband a chess set for his birthday.
At the apparent uninterest of her husband, Hélène decides to take on the world of chess by herself. She buys a book on the principles of chess and begins to stay up late at night learning the game’s strategies.
The climax of the film unfolds when she seeks the guidance of Kröger, a reclusive American doctor for whom she works cleaning his respective house. Kröger, played by actor Kevin Kline, was once a dexterous chess player. He begins to gradually pass his knowledge and skills onto Hélène through weekly chess lessons.
Hélène and Kröger develop an ambiguous emotional and intellectual attachment depicted throughout the film.
Eventually, when Hélène’s skill for chess reaches an utterly refined dimension, Kröger encourages her to participate in a regional tournament, setting the stage for the culmination of the film.
Ultimately, all the forces in Hélène’s life including her initially skeptical husband and teenage daughter, selflessly come together to support her passion and she finds herself inevitably transformed by the game of chess.
The Huffington post claims that “Queen to Play” seems so obvious in its metaphors and plotting, that you come away stunned at the end to realize just how engaging and involving it is.
Tickets are free for Mercyhurst students with an ID.