Back to Burgundy – Human fermentation in the film by Cédric Klapisch
3 November 2017

In his new film, Ce qui nous lie, Cédric Klapisch, the director of L’Auberge Espagnole, takes us behind the scenes of a Burgundy wine property with a moving tale of terroir and succession. With its scenes of wine tasting and grape treading, as well as some lovely filming of the Burgundy wine country, this rich and sensual film is a must for wine lovers.

The film opens as Jean returns to the family wine property in the famous Burgundy village of Meursault. He has been travelling the world, an absence of several years precipitated by the need to put some space between himself and his family, which has taken him as far as a vineyard in Australia where he has been living with his Argentinian girlfriend and their small boy.

Within days of Jean’s return his father dies after a lifetime inhaling pesticides. It is vintage time and Jean’s younger sister Juliette, now in charge of the property, has to decide when to begin picking the grapes and how to make this year’s wine.

Continuing a preference begun with L’Auberge Espagnole and Le Péril Jeune, Klapisch has again brought together a talented group of young actors, although in Ce qui nous lie he forsakes the world’s great cities for the rolling slopes of the Burgundian vineyard. Here, three siblings – Pio Marmaï as Jean, François Civil as his brother and Ana Giradot as Juliette – confront the challenges of supervising the grape picking.

As the seasons pass and the colours of the Burgundy landscape change, Ce qui nous lie explores the various hurdles involved in wine making. With the trio, we gaze anxiously at the sky as a storm approaches that threatens to damage the grapes, we rise early on a raw winter morning to prune the vines and we face the difficulty of achieving the perfect blend. The film is particularly good at showing the physical and unpredictable nature of wine making, in which hard work is mixed with decisions based on experience. The father, who of course had vats of experience, is no longer there to be consulted and his absence is so powerful that it becomes in a sense a presence. What would Papa have done? The question cannot be answered and this uncertainty places the whole enterprise at risk.

Besides facing the challenges of winemaking, the siblings are confronted by steep inheritance tax which may force them to break up the property. Each of them proposes a different solution, in turn selfish or generous. What would Papa have wanted? The three young people grapple with their happy or painful childhood memories, as they try to find some common ground. Klapisch develops the tensions inherent in family relationships: love and hate, gentleness and violence, misunderstanding and reconciliation … “Love is like wine, you need time. It has to ferment. And it’s not always rotten in the end,” one of the characters comments.

The film hints obliquely at the counterpoint position of wine in today’s culture. Wine making is indeed a labour of love, a slow process that requires planning, perseverance, experience and talent … rather than zapping and superficiality. By the end of the film, each of its young protagonists has matured to become more at ease with their past and more confident about their future. Like wine making, family relationships are dynamic and evolving and we suspect that this will by no means be the end of the journey for these three attaching characters. But at least they now have the roundness and strength to continue on their way.

See also: imdb details for ‘Ce qui nous lie‘.