Paul, a high-flying engineer, is proud to have been born in a Swiss town the locals refer to as the Centre of the World. He is running for a local election when he meets Adriana, a young Italian waitress in a café. Although he is married, Paul starts to have a passionate love affair with Adriana, and is soon prepared to give up everything for her. However, the young waitress realises that it is not she that Paul loves but a self-made fantasy…
With its documentary-like cinematography, typical of Alain Tanner’s characteristic social realist style, Le Milieu du monde makes a cruel analytic examination of one man’s deluded love for a woman. Romantic love is, to a greater or lesser extent, a fiction, where the intensity of the love is determined by the needs and imagination of the individual who has been struck by Cupid’s arrow. Mutual love is more commonplace in films and novels than in real life, and it is a refreshing change when a film defies convention and shows romantic love as is very often is – a misguided obsession with a very limited life span.
It is surprising how intensely Tanner and his two lead actors (Olimpia Carlisi and Philippe Léotard à la perfection) manage to convince us of both sides in the ill-fated relationship – Adriana’s cool indifference and Paul’s child-like obsession. This is a blindingly realistic depiction of a love affair seen from a totally neutral perspective (emphasised by the raw cinematography of the bleak rural setting), yet, despite its coldness and analytical style, it is still a hugely compelling work.