The year 2012 is almost over, but it doesn’t mean we should stop celebrating the movies. This year was arguably the best year for movies in recent history. From amazing cast introductions in Avengers to an Oscar-worthy performance from Kate Winslet in The Reader, the year saw many incredible movies. One of the most beloved movies of 2012 is unquestionably Bel 2012. Directed by French filmmaker Jacques Audiard, the movie is a fantastic adaptation of Ivan Goncharov’s 1879 novella, Oblomov. The story follows the titular hero as he stumbles across a young woman in an effort to help her with her luggage. The two end up spending the night together and enjoy a magical evening filled with passion. Bel 2012 was released in theaters across the country on November 15, 2012 and was an immediate critical and commercial success. It currently has an 87% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and its score of 6.7/10 on IMDb puts it ahead of many other popular movies this year.

The Making of Bel 2012

Bel 2012 was a labor of love for Audiard. The filmmaker wanted to make the movie for a long time, and the idea for it came to him during a creative block. Audiard read Oblomov in French class in high school and was immediately inspired to make the film. He began developing the project immediately after school and spent the next few years working on it. He finally finished the script in 2009 and started filming that summer.

Audiard cast Robert Pattinson in the role of Tristan Tzara, the main character of Oblomov. Tzara is a brilliant yet bored young man who leaves his sleepy town in search of adventure. He travels to St. Petersburg to study architecture, but quickly realizes that studying is not for him. He meets and falls in love with Sonya, the beautiful daughter of a wealthy landowner who owns a large country estate. The two set up housekeeping and have fun together. However, Tzara’s good luck runs out when he tries to leave St. Petersburg. He is attacked by a bear and left for dead. Fortunately, a passerby finds him and takes him to a nearby village. There, the man helps him recover and trains him in the ways of a real man. The next morning, Tzara leaves for Moscow, where he will meet up with Sonya again.

The role of Sonya was offered to Uma Thurman before Audrey found the perfect actress to play the heroine. His original choice for the role was Jessica Chastain, but she turned it down. After auditioning numerous actresses, Audiard chose Thurman for the role. She had just finished filming The Avengers at the time, and he saw her potential as a lead.

The World of Bel

Bel is set in the late 1800s in Russia. Although it is based on a true story, the filmmakers had to change a few things for the movie. For instance, they gave the movie the present day location of St. Petersburg and updated the costumes and setting to fit the period. The most important thing they did was to turn the story into a love story. In the book, Oblomov never expresses love for anyone, and the closest he comes to describing a romantic encounter is when he describes how he occasionally looked at a flower and thought of its beauty.

Despite these changes, Audiard remained true to the spirit of the original story. He adapted the novella with an eye toward preserving as much of the book’s charm as possible while modernizing it for a new audience. Audiard uses a mix of French and Russian accents for the majority of the main characters, and the language choice was one of the major points of identification for those who knew the original work. The main villager is a Russian who speaks very little French, and his only words in the movie are “kommandant” and “zeks.” These are the officers that rule over the area during the French Revolution. Other than these two characters, the rest of the villagers are French. They speak impeccable French and have the same accent as the officers. It is one of the most interesting casting choices Audiard ever made.

The Production Design of Bel

Bel was shot entirely in Provence, and the director used the opportunity to explore the beautiful scenery. Most of the movie takes place in and around a small French village named Brévent. The design of this particular village is breathtaking; it was constructed directly on the film set and is filled with authentic period details that helped Audiard create a sense of authenticity throughout the movie.

The villagers in Bel are not your typical country folk. They wear stylish outfits and have an interesting mix of nationalities. You will notice that the elderly women wear the most fashionable dresses and head scarves. This was because Audiard wanted to show that even the most simple of the villagers had a refined style.

Kate Winslet’s Oscar-worthy Performance

Kate Winslet won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in The Reader. The movie was based on the French author Belkova’s 2005 novel of the same name and tells the story of a book editor who is charged with reviewing a biography of the 19th century Russian author, Tolstoy. Winslet plays Anna Karenina, the romantic interest of the author who travels from England to Russia to meet with him. Despite the great performance, Winslet wasn’t always happy with her role; she had previously expressed doubts that a renowned author such as Tolstoy would be interested in discussing his life with a womanizer like Aldous Huxley. When the role was explained to her, she was quite excited about it and felt that it would be a great challenge.

What is Next for Bel?

Bel is one of the most beloved movies of 2012, and it’s easy to see why. Not only does it have incredible acting performances by some of Hollywood’s best, but it also boasts an incredibly charming and likeable main character. Despite being an adaptation, the movie still feels like it could have been written by the audience; they felt like they knew the characters well. A remake of this movie is inevitable; it’s just a matter of time before someone decides to give it a go. What will be interesting to see is what changes the person making the adaptation decides to make. Will they stay close to the original story or will they change something significant to fit modern day sensibilities?