Jean-Jacques Beineix’s 1981 mystery, Diva, is a transportive viewing experience, not least because the film is set in 80s Paris. The film is an adaptation of Daniel Odier’s novel, published in 1979 under the pseudonym “Delacorta”. As one of the first films to depart from the 70s realist movement of French cinema, the film performed well at the box office but later became a cult classic.
The film follows Jules, a young postman, who is obsessed with opera – in particular, with Cynthia Hawkins, an American “diva” and opera singer. Cynthia doesn’t record any of her pieces, but Jules secretly records one of her performances. His tape ends up in the wrong hands, and he soon becomes the target of a mob.
Diva started its own cinematic movement, with its vibrant cinematography, unique sense of humor, mixed-genre plot, and gloomy settings. Here are fourteen quotes that help set the atmosphere of this memorable film.
- Jules: Where are we?
Alba: In a castle.
Jules: What castle?
Alba: Where the witch makes poisoned red apples to advertise the toothpaste movie stars use.
- Gorodish: Abyssus abyssum invocat.
Alba: What is “abyssus abyssum”?
Gorodish: It means the abyss calls the abyss.
- Jules: What are you doing with my watch? My Skelton!
Alba: Don’t cry. I’ve got another – genuine plastic. Just right for a little brat like you.
- Jules: It’s La Wally, by Catalani. In the mountains, there’s a woman. She wants to die. She had an unhappy love affair. She sings, “I shall go far away, very far, where the clouds are golden, where the snow is white. You will see me no more – never again.” It’s tragic. In the end, she throws herself into an avalanche.
Alba: A real tear-jerker! Super!
- Cynthia: What’s your name, Postman?
Cynthia: Jules! “Jules” is old for a young man. I thought the French were modern.
Jules: My father was old-fashioned.
Cynthia: I’m kidding. “Jules” fits you so poorly that it fits you very well.
- Le curé: I don’t like cars.
- Le curé: I don’t like Beethoven.
- Le curé: I don’t like garages.
- Le curé: I don’t like parking lots.
- Le curé: I don’t like your mug.
- Le curé: I don’t like this.
- Le curé: I don’t like elevators.
Zatopek: You don’t like anything.
- Cynthia: Do you steal the dresses of all singers?
Jules: No, no.
Cynthia: So, I’m the lucky one! I have a fan?
Jules: I heard you in Bordeaux. And last year I went to Munich specially for the concert.
Cynthia: You made the trip for me?
Jules: Yes, on the moped.
Cynthia: On the moped. So, you are a real fan.
- Jules: It’s the only recording.
Cynthia: It was you?
Jules: It’s yours; it’s my gift to you. Forgive me.
Cynthia: But…I’ve never heard myself sing.