Happenstance is a 2000 French film by Laurent Firode starring Audrey Tautou and Faudel. The film is also known as The Beating of the Butterfly’s Wings, a literal translation of its original French title, Le Battement d’ailes du papillon.
The film’s title references what is known as the Butterfly effect (from chaos theory) which is quoted a by one of the characters in the film. The film reflects on how something a person does, no matter how small or seemingly inconsequential, can set into motion a series of events that can change their life forever. The fun in this film comes with the God’s-eye view given to the viewer. In a single day of Parisian urban interactions, none of the characters perceives the intricate web of chance that ties them together.
It’s six degrees of separation with a twist when Irene (Audrey Tautou), a hopelessly romantic, who, on the way to work takes a seat on the Paris Metro opposite an older woman who tries to interview her for a marketing survey. On hearing that Irène’s birthdate is 11 March 1977, the woman reads her horoscope: today she’ll meet her true love, but she must be patient. After she leaves the metro, the young man (Faudel) sitting next to the older woman tells the her he was born on the same day and asks her to read the rest of the horoscope.
Happenstance uses chance meetings to build a concept which allows for a kind of “karmic justice” to thrive. Seemingly trivial events—such as the throwing of stones or a shoe, the theft of a coffeemaker, a pigeon’s consumption of a macaroon—determine the decisions and lives of the many characters. The film traces a range of characters of diverse ages, ethnicities and social status whose daily lives intersect with Irène and Faudel’s in a variety of ways and come together at the end of the day.
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