Premier Amour (First Love) is a Swiss production written and directed by Jules Carrin. The film opens with a farmer and his dog strolling out of the woods towards his farmhouse, outside of which is a ‘for sale’ sign that he proceeds to tear down in an evident rage. It is discovered that the land could potentially be bought by the rival Lamiche family, a fact complicated by the secret love affair between the farmer’s daughter and the Lamiche family’s son, a delinquent car mechanic who works with his brother in the family-owned garage. As the young couple become more deeply involved, it seems ever more certain that the proprietary transaction between families is more a probability than possibility, much against the financially distressed farmer’s wishes and power.
A story of forbidden love between the son and daughter of two rival families who seek to be free from the bondage of older traditions and local suspicions, the drama is crafted with a Shakespearean touch with clear allusions to the more tragic elements of Romeo and Juliet (although First Love isn’t without laughs either). The subdued tension and complex emotional states of the characters are richly translated through the fantastic use of colour – particularly the muted, pastille blues – and location, much of which takes place outdoors in nature albeit in an oppressive woodland from which our protagonists hopelessly seek liberation, and demonstrated beautifully at one point in a tracking shot through the trees of the young girl running, instantly calling to mind Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon.
First Love is a delicate, tender and ultimately troubling portrait of modernity in conflict with tradition and the complex struggles of young adults in love.