Somehow I have the impression that a film like this would never be made today and would cause serious controversy and raised eyebrows, partially and with reason. But half a century ago, a film in which we follow the romance of a 30-year-old and a 12-year-old girl could not only be made, but “Sundays and Cybele” or “Les dimanches de Ville d’Avray” won the Oscar for the best film outside the English area while Serge Bourguignon was nominated for the best adapted screenplay, and Maurice Jarre for the best original music. Of course, this is not a classic romance, but the relationship between Pierre (Hardy Krüger), a 30-year-old aviator who suffered psychological damage after being wounded in the war in Indochina and suffers from amnesia, and the girl whose father left him in the Francoise orphanage is exclusively platonic, tender and innocent.
Anyway, it seems quite bizarre and unhealthy, but Bourguignon’s debut feature film as soon as it appeared was a great sensation and success. Before enrolling in film studies in Paris, Boruguignon studied painting and sculpture, and first started making documentaries. It is interesting how “Sundays and Cybele” after its premiere in Venice, was first recognized and accepted by the American audience and critics, and after winning the Oscar, it finally began to be distributed in France, even though only a few months earlier, no distributor there wanted to take it considering boring and uninteresting.
And it is a film with a strong visual impact and shot in a new-wave poetic, gentle style, and we follow this unusual story. After a serious injury that caused him to lose his memory, Pierre is trying to get used to a normal life, and he lives with Madeleine, the nurse who took care of him after his injury. The key event will happen one night when he sees a man leaving his daughter in the church orphanage for Cybele, apparently against her will. What he saw will shock a man who, we will understand, is himself on the emotional level of a child and therefore he will decide to introduce himself as the girl’s father in order to take her out of the orphanage on Sunday. Their socializing and meetings will continue in the following Sundays and it will turn into platonic love.
Of course, Pierre will not tell his girlfriend or his friends about his relationship with the girl because it is so clear to him that no one would look favorably on it, but it will be clear to everyone that he is behaving even more strangely than usual. And everything leads to the tragic ending of this drama, which the critics of the time viewed more as an unfortunate story of the struggle between the innocent world of childhood and the cynical, realistic and cruel “real” world from which Pierre seems to be trying to escape. All the more so because Pierre seems more like a child on an emotional level than Francoise and she almost seems more mature. Pierre doesn’t seem to realize that over time the girl no longer sees him as a father figure, but rather falls in love with him, and although it’s obvious to us that his intentions towards Francoise are innocent, of course society won’t see it that way.