Il n’y a pas d’amour heureux
There is no happy love
The Rainbow Heron Small Grants Fund commissioned Rad Miller, Director of Pocket Projects, based in Leeds, to make our original art film, based on a French poem, which had its premiere on 15th October 2016 at our public launch, as part of Sheffield’s Off the Shelf 2016 Festival of Words. The film was also shown as part of Sheffield Hallam University’s Catalyst: Festival of Creativity on November 26th 2017.
The film features original choreography by Steinvor Palsson
We intend to show the film at other festivals in 2017 as a stimulus for discussion on life, love and loss. You can see the film profile here: https://filmfreeway.com/project/909959
Please contact us through our Permissions page if you would like to use the film at your own events, for educational purposes.
Read the story behind the film
We don’t know exactly how this came about, but … Dora translated the first and last verse of this poem, wrote it out neatly on 7th February 2015 (the night before she died) and took it to dinner with her friends Sarah and Becca, who had organised a pre-birthday meal at their flat. Dora performed this version, especially the final line, with her usual great passion.
As it clearly had significance for Dora, we rediscovered the original poem and the musical cover version by Brassens; completed the English translation of the poem; commissioned a new short interpretative ballet; and included young people in Edinburgh and Sheffield as dancers and readers. For us, an important aspect of the project concerns the duality or contradictions in the human condition, which affect mental and emotional health and wellbeing – while being drivers for extraordinary endeavours.
The original poem was written by Louis Aragon and published in 1946. Aragon was a founding member of the Surrealism movement and a lifelong member of the French Communist Party. Mobilised in 1939, he was awarded both the Croix de Guerre and the military medal for acts of bravery. He joined the Resistance as a fighter and a writer, with his wife Elsa Triolet, a Russian-born author. After the Liberation, Aragon became a leading European editor and publisher, winning the Lenin Peace Prize in 1956 and nominated four times for the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Aragon is still well-known in France because many of his poems have been set to music as popular songs. Georges Brassens composed and released the first version of ‘Il n’y a pas d’amour heureux’ in 1954 and it has been copied widely ever since. Brassens was one of Dora’s favourite artists; she loved the nouvelle chanson style which combines realism and dark humour with elegant use of language and bouncy rhythms. But when Brassens performed this song, he never included the last verse, so this was lost over the years. A more recent cover by Ophélie Moisan includes the last verse – but not the last line!
Il n’y a pas d’amour heureux
Mais c’est notre amour à tous les deux
‘But this love is ours; for both of us’. The last line is the crux of the original poem and transforms what could be seen as a pessimistic reflection on a love affair into a redemptive commentary on the human condition. The final line, introduced by ‘but’, stands in opposition to the rest. There may be no happy love, but there is love and that is what enables us to endure the human condition – because at least, when we love, we are not alone.
Through Dora’s translation, the original significance of the poem is resurrected.