Found letters. A love story, a family story.

La Petite Valise

Interactive documentary, Transmedia documentary, Current work
“This is my first love letter, and it is for you, my love.”

 

In the family house attic, Eric Viennot found letters exchanged between his parents in the early fifties. He discovers the evolution of an absolute love story. His mother, still alive today, looks back with him to a time where everything seemed possible. At that time, passionate love had not the taste of disillusion. Starting with this discovery, the writter will discover long time hidden secrets…

 

The story

August 1952. Jean is 19 years old. He goes to the dance in Meillonnas, a village in Revermont, near the Jura mountains where he spent his summer holidays. He meets Jacqueline, 16 years old, who is speading her holidays by her grand mother in Meillonnas. They spend the night together. First kiss is exchanged. Love at first sight. During the next days, they secretly meet until the end of the holidays. First seperation, first tear, first exchanged letters. Jacqueline in the daughter of factory workers, they will caution her against the boy from another social environment. But Jean does not care, and against his family advice he will stay in touch with this young girl and fall completly in love.

 

A huge obstacle stand between them. Jean has to leave for Paris, in order to study physical education. Will their love handle 3 long years away far away from eachother? Their parents believe it will not, and they will plot against him thanks to a Parisian friend, who will introduce to another young girl.

Then starts a long and fascinating epistolar relationship. Jean describes the hard hazing, the high level training sessions : athletics,  collective sport, swimming, gymnastics, combat sport, footing in the cold 1954 winter. Hopefully, there are the nights in the lively Paris of the fifties, the Grands Boulevards, St Germain-des-Prés, the Jazz Clubs, and the friends…

So many temptations that will deeply worry Jacqueline, who finally stops feeding herself. What if Odette, the rival she hates above all, manages to seduce her “Jeannot”? All letters confirm that Jean only has Jacqueline on his mind.

But so far away… For so long… How to fight this terrible fate that seperated them? Will the love of Jean handle the temptations? Did Jacqueline and Jean meet to early?

Extracts

First letter of Jean

Roissiat,  Septembre 8th 1952

My dear little Jackie,

This is my first love letter, and it is for you, my love. It’s ten o’clock on this Tuesday evening. I am writing from the room of the young man who inveted me for his wedding. (He is getting married in Paris, where his fiancée lives).

I only have this poor quality paper and this horrible school penholder. Please excuse my terrible writting, I am not used to this kind of tool, especially during holidays.

But yet the letter deserves a better fate! Is it not unfortunatly the first of a long serie? I am saying “unfortunalty”, because letters = separation, beeing far away. If only it would last only 8 days, like this time. But yet, 8 days seem so long! Luckily, one day is now passed. But it seemed so long! I was thinking of you a lot, my love. Each time I was allowed to think, because I was harvesting. I will be havesting untill Sunday, and while Harvesting, you are not allowed to dream.

I carried the grapes baskets the entire day, I got more dirty than tired. I even spread grape juice on my head while emptying a basket in the container! No better shampoo, trust me!

Don’t worry, we were just men. And even if there were women… I’m interested in no other woman now.

I made a safe travelling yesterday, but it was cold. But trust me, I do prefer the trip in the other direction! I hope you are forcing yourself to eat, you have to. Do not think of me if you have to. But I know you can’t! The same goes for me. But I am still having a good appetite: I’m a man after all !

My letter will leave tomorrow at noon. You may get it tomorrow evening. Whatever, I am wainting for your first letter, that I will keep preciously, like the other ones. Please do the same. When we will be old, around the warm fireplace, the one of us with the better eyes will read these testimonies of love.

A letter is a good thing, but there is nothing like reunion. That’s why I am impatiently waiting for your letter, but even more our reunion. I have so much to tell you my love. Things that can be told but not written.

That’s it: my letter is over. I am going to bet, thinking of you before falling asleep, and so on. Loving is a beautiful thing. But beeing loved is even better. That’s the case for both of us. I am leaving you my love, I kiss you with all my young passion.

Your beloved Jean who loves you and thinks of nothing but you.

First letter of Jacqueline

Meillonnas, September 11th, 1952

My dear love,

The clock slowly delivers the continuous flow of time sparks we call minutes. How long it is indeed, when two lovers are seperated! However, I got your so desired letter this morning. I see that, even if we are so far away, you are still thinking of me, but you see, I always have this horrible doubt chasing me. How not to doubt: we do not know each other so weel! I fear that our love fades. However, I love you like I would have never hoped for. I believe that, if it had to end now, it would be extremely difficult… Have you ever though of a string, hanging in the air, on which an acrobat dances? Everything is going fine, and eventually the string breaks… I don’t why, I compare our love to this. It may be because it grew up so fast. I am hoping with all my heart that I am wrong, that our adventure will last forever, because I already know that I want to spend my life with you…

Yes, it will take guts to handle the seperation you announced me, it will last for years, with many temptations, maybe the will to follow a different path, with someone unexpected, who will make us figure out that we were wrong, that you should not have chosen me. You already made me understand, the first night, how hard it is to be firmly engaged… You were honest, and I love you even more for that, because you did not lie to me the first night we met… I, who is so young, will do everything I can to keep you mine, even if I can only one thing, offer you my love… Is it possible that two weeks were enough to get me definitivly attached to you?

My heart, I gave it to you now, and I’m only sixteen… but the other heart, yours, is it really responding to it? It is so wonderful, that I cannot believe it is true… We have four years to figure it out, to get to know each other completly… four years… eternity!

You know, we want be able to meet untill next year, because my mother is coming to get me sunday ! I will be writting from Lyon, to the address you carefully left me.

I am alone in this room. No noise, but the magpie who just flew by, fast and light. This autumnal landscape misses your presence, unfortunatly!

I am going to send this letter, without forgetting to take a look at those mountains you are at. Each time I get out, I can’t help but look in this direction. Oh, I was so happy when I got your letter, the first one… I will sure keep it, like all the ones to come… Such things are not meant to be destroyed!

I do talk a lot about you to my friend, and I am already making many plans! However, plans rarely become real…

Courage: I just have to think of you to get filled with ; self-confidence: I am getting it from you too.

I have only one desire: that the holidays end, in order for us to see each other more often.

I love you, Jean ; my Jean… Get my sweet kisses.

Back to the fifties

 

La Petite Valise is a great return to the fifties. Thanks to Jacqueline and Jean epistolary relationship, we are able to share the happy spirit of the post-war period. We discover the songs, the movies and the novels the lovers are talking about. Some important events, like the beginning of the Algerian War, or casual ones, like the creation of the radio station Europe 1, also are depicted throughout the letters.

A transmedia project

 

A family project

 

Links

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PRODUCED BY LES FILMS DU TAMBOUR DE SOIE

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