Saturday, March 3, 2012


"Rules are less important than exceptions in chess" say Dr Kroger to Helene, in Queen to Play (2009).
I watched the for the first time two years ago in my trip back from Toronto.  I remember after it ended I watched it again.  I am watching it yet again now in the 30-minute intervals I spend on the Elliptical every other day.
This woman, Helene (Sandrine Bonnaire) is playing the role of an obedient punctual desire-less house-wife in a working-class family.  His husband, although handsome in her eyes, is all about work and manly leisure.  The wife is trapped within this imagery she has made of herself:  This selfless obedient punctual desire-less working house-wife.  But she is brave enough to realize that she is unhappy.  She knows she can do more.  But she has her doubts.  Can she do something for herself for a change?
She is a maid in a beautiful hotel overlooking a beautiful sea; she rides her bike to the hotel every day to clean and tidy the rooms.  One day, cleaning a room, she observes a seemingly happy and satisfied couple playing chess in the trace of their hotel room, absorbed in their game and glancing over each other lustfully.  It is as if they are in a platonic foreplay the only physical act of which is their interlacing fingers.
Full of doubts she decides to give chess a try.  Her husband is no way near being interested and her girlfriends do not know how to play.  Her only game mate becomes Dr Kroger (Kevin Klein), a lonely and cranky American who lives in that village and Helene cleans his house once a week.
"In small but significant ways, “Queen to Play” defies expectations. It dangles the possibility of an affair between Hélène and Kröger in games that the film likens to courtship rituals in a classic screwball comedy. But their flirtation is never physically consummated."
She doubts herself, yet she is brave enough to quietly continue with her game.  She gives up once because of her husbands jealousy over her game and her spent time at Korger's.  But through her daughters encouragement even her husband starts admiring and supporting her.  Her satisfaction transforms her dull relationship with her husband and daughter.  But above all, her relationship with her true self.
"Rules are less important than exceptions in chess".


Anonymous said...

I hope to become a better chess player someday after reading this post. Very well done recap Leila joon

midnight/... said...

Yeah!? Me too actually. I think I like to focus on one plan and try to get it accomplished even a lousy one. Like Dr Kroger advises.
Thanks for the encouragement!