Directed and written by Rodolphe Marconi, “Love Forbidden” (Défense d’Aimer) is a captivating French psychological drama that intricately weaves themes of forbidden love, identity exploration, and the complexities of human emotions. Set against the backdrop of the opulent Villa Medici in Rome, the film unfolds as a young French filmmaker, Bruce, portrayed by the director himself, embarks on an artistic retreat to recover from the recent death of his brother and the heartbreak of his girlfriend’s abandonment.
The film artfully captures the ambiance of the French Cultural Institute, housed within the historical Villa Medici, offering a lush and baroque setting that mirrors the emotional intensity of the unfolding narrative. Bruce’s initial aloofness and withdrawal gradually give way to a compelling friendship with Matteo (Andrea Necci), an apprentice at the institute’s library. The subtleties of their relationship evolve into an exploration of desire, testing the limits of societal expectations and personal boundaries.
Bruce’s journey takes a poignant turn when he discovers his homosexuality after a subtle flirtation with Matteo. The film deftly navigates the psychological terrain of Bruce’s fear and self-discovery, avoiding the common tropes of positive imagery often found in American independent films on gay themes. Instead, “Love Forbidden” presents Bruce’s infatuation with Matteo as a malignant force, rooted in his fear of abandonment rather than a conventional affective drive.
The narrative gracefully shifts as Matteo begins to pull away, redirecting his attention to Aston (Echo Danon), an enigmatic American woman who writes novels about serial killers. The film delves into the complexities of unrequited love and the unique French concept of l’amour fou, where the more unaccountable the passion, the more extravagant its expression.
One of the film’s strengths lies in its meticulous documentation of feelings and intuitions. It captures the nuances of desire, fear, and obsession with precision and discretion. The gothic undertones, amplified by the Baroque clutter of the Medici mansion, elevate “Love Forbidden” beyond a simple romantic drama, transforming it into a haunting exploration of l’amour fou.
“Love Forbidden” stands out as a model French psychological drama that embraces the complexities of its characters and themes. Rodolphe Marconi’s dual role as director and protagonist adds a personal touch to the film, contributing to its authenticity and emotional depth. The film’s departure from conventional positive imagery in its portrayal of gay themes and its graceful evolution into a gothic tale make it a compelling and thought-provoking cinematic experience.