The perplexing nature of romantic relationships was front and center in the majority of the films of Andrzej Zulawski and one particular facet, and often the most volatile, as it relates to the themes of relationships, the love triangle, proved to be especially fascinating for Zulawski. Zulawski's fixation with the love triangle can be seen in his first feature The Third Part of the Night (1971) but it was his third film L'important c'est d'aimer (1975) where the various complexities the love triangle presented began to take shape. Zulawski's most famous title, Possession (1981), took the love triangle into the realm of the fantisque (and technically became a “love square”) whereas La femme publique (1984) turned the love triangle idea on its head somewhat by having an actress play the role of the dead wife of one of her lovers. Even in films like My Nights are More Beautiful Than Your Days (1989) and Szamanka (1996), where the love triangle isn't the main focus of the film, nevertheless feature characters involved in fierce relationships while another partner figures in the background. And how appropriate that Zulawski's final film Cosmos (2015) centers around a man obsessed with the wife of another? Fidelity, Zulawski's penultimate feature as well as his final collaboration with then wife/muse Sophie Marceau, once again saw Zulawski shining a light on the love triangle concept with typically cathartic and devastating results.
After accepting a job with La Verite, a trashy tabloid, Clélia (Sophie Marceau), a talented photographer becomes engaged to and later marries Clève, a publisher who was previously engaged to the daughter of Clélia's new boss. Shortly before the marriage, Clélia meets Nemo, a fellow photographer at La Verite and the attraction between the two is immediate. Even after Clélia and Clève's marriage, Nemo continues to pursue Clélia and the more time the two spend together, the stronger Clélia's attraction to Nemo grows. Despite her determination to remain loyal to Clève, Clélia's struggle with temptation becomes apparent to Clève who begins to suspect infidelity which, along with the increasingly dangerous nature of Nemo's investigative photojournalism, causes even more strife in both Clélia's personal and professional life.
Rivaled only by L'important c'est d'aimer in terms of accurately representing the agony that arises out of a situation involving two people who, for all intensive purposes, could be together yet are prevented by various forces, in many ways Fidelity (La fidélité) is very much a sibling film to L'important c'est d'aimer with the two sharing several similarities. For instance, both films have a strong emphasis on photography, with it being Clélia's main profession just as it was Fabio Testi's Servais in L'important c'est d'aimer. Both films also feature commentary on the concepts, differences and similarities of “high” and “low” art, tabloid media and pornography. Both films even develop crime subplots with the male protagonists becoming involved in shady underworld activities. Most importantly though, just as Zulawski did with L'important c'est d'aimer, the typical love triangle is subverted by having no extramarital affair actually take place, choosing instead to focus on the psychological anguish felt by the three parties involved, be it Clélia's temptation, Nemo's lust and Clève suspicion and jealousy as opposed to standard soap opera tropes a love triangle might entail. The central triangle holds even more weight thanks to the various subplots, particularly as it relates to Clélia's job as well as her ailing mother. The film is often singled out as being one of Zulawski's more “conventional”, however the film is still ripe with his trademark idiosyncrasies and eccentric side characters, and there aren't many romantic dramas that feature black market organ trafficking, gangsters and the occasional specter sighting.
Fidelity was again the final collaboration between Zulawski and Sophie Marceau and even with the film featuring some of the finest examples of steadicam work and one of composer Andrzej Korzynski's most gorgeously melancholic, piano based scores (plus some industrial tinged touches for added effect during some of the more energetic moments), its Marceau who really carries the entire film. Although her performance is much more “calm”, for lack of a better word (although she does have one incredible moment of emotional excess), than her previous turns for Zulawski, her performance nonetheless traverses through a wide range of emotions which Marceau brilliantly conveys, the passage of time covered in the film really being felt by her perfectly nuanced performance. Quite possibly her finest role for Zulawski. The fact that both her professional and personal relationship with Zulawski came to a close following the film gives the film an extremely personal quality which, intentional or not, makes the film resonate even more. It would be 15 years before Zulawski would deliver his swansong Cosmos and although Fidelity thankfully wound up not to be his final film, if it had been it would have been as powerful as a final statement could be. While its bound to be much to heavy for many, Fidelity is an essential piece of the Zulawski puzzle, marking the end of one of the most memorable and rewarding artist/muse pairings.