The Third Lover (1962) - full transcript

André Mercier, a journalist known as Albin Mercier, is a failed, embittered writer. Sent to cover an event in Germany, he gets to know Andreas Hartmann, another writer who, for his part, has not... failed. The successful Andreas is married to Hélène, a beautiful Frenchwoman. Both attracted to her and jealous of the couple's happiness, Mercier decides to shatter it. Taking advantage of the absence of Andreas, off on a business trip, he tries to seduce Hélène and to become her lover. But things do not go according to plan...

I called myself Albin Mercier,
but my name is Andr? Mercier.

I signed my books and
articles under the name of Albin.

I was a modest writer, so much so that i was
almost alone to be aware of that fact.

Not so long ago, I was
in Germany, near Munich,

sent by a small daily newspaper.

I had to write about everyday life in Germany,

our past enemy and future ally.

It didn't pay well, but i didn't care.

I couldn't afford to be picky.

The rent was taken care of,
but I had to pay the maid.

I'd been warned.

Not luxurious but decent.

Sad as death.

I was bitter yet glad.


more bitter than glad.

I spend the 2 first days
strolling about the village.

It was a pleasant microcosm.
Some workers, some farmers...

many land owners.

Tourists from Munich.

Nice houses kept open...

to be admired at any time.

I felt lonely.

Nobody would speak
or look at me.

It was like being trapped in a desert.

I despised these houses.

I was a prisoner.

I had to pretend to speak german
to get the job

but this was a lie.

I didn't speak a word of it.

What a looser.

Only one thing caught my attention.

A nice stone wall that
protected the intimacy of a couple.

I tried asking the maid
to learn more about it.

Behind the wall
lived the famous Doctor Hartman.


The greatest writer of his time.

The hope for a new Germany.

I tried to get a glimpse at
this rare bird.

He seemed like a nice fellow.

I wondered how I could arrange
to meet him.

In the meantime, i had
to earn my measly salary.

Everything was a bore,
I wrote nonsense.

The maid jabbered on
some complaints she had.

Always nagging, always in need
of some kitchen tool I couln't make out.

I had to make a fool
of myself in the shops.

Like a mute talking to a deaf.

Until one day, a stroke of luck...

She spoke french.
She was french.

I should have guessed
she was Mrs Hartman.

I worked my way
into getting invited.

Her name was Helen.

Nice name.

I've been told about
your presence here, Mr..?

Albin Mercier. But how..?

The arrival of a foreigner
in a small village like this...

On the contrary I felt like
i was being ignored...

You were being watched.
You are the talk of the town.

What an honor.
Excuse me.


- Here.
- Splendid.

I greatly admire your husband.

How nice of you.

I'm sure he'll want to meet you.


- Aren't you a writer too?
- How do you know?

Don't tell me you've read my books?

No but I'm sure they are great.

Join us for a coffee this afternoon.

I'm speechless.

Don't be, if I invite you,
that's because it's our pleasure.

If it annoys you, turn it down.

you make me shy.

Of course it'll be a pleasure...

- An honor?
- An honor.

- I don't know how to thank you.
- Let's say 2 o'clock.

- Can I drop you somewhere?
- No thanks.

I like to walk. See you later.

Here I was, able to enter their
home without difficulties.

Look at them, watch them.

I went there quite naturally,
like an old acquaintance,

an old friend.

I felt giddy as a child for
i had to improvise.

I had never read one of Hartman's books.

I instantly liked the house.

I felt comfortable, everything
was calm and in harmony.

Everything was in perfect taste.

Andrea Hartman.
I've read of of your books.

Very interesting.

We shared the same first name,
but my lie forbade me to tell him.

Andre suggests we
have our coffee outside.


The more I stayed with them,
the better I felt.

They treated me as an old friend.

It was almost embarrassing.

Andre is glad I found someone
to speak french with. He's not very fluent.

- Really?
- Awful!


Cognac, thanks.


I was struck by the masterful
way this man and this woman

shared the load of the conversation.

Miracle of intelligence.

They turned langage
barrier into a game.

They completed each other
and smiled all the time,

happy to live together in this house,

to be here with me,
chatting about things they cared for.

They showed me the fine politeness

of letting me make their acquaintance.

This was a real image of happiness
so rare and precious

that beneath my pleasure
growed an uneasiness

a state of tension
that gained my entire body.

It has come to a point where

I have no idea what
word will follow the next.

But what matters is that
it is all in the favor of Europe.

They liked me,
it was a fact.

Andre thinks it's the
best way to go about it.

We parted later that
afternoon, a smile on our faces,

planning future visits.

But the day was ruined
by a catastrophe.

The stupid maid didn't think
of shutting down the main pipe.

I had to do it myself.

All was left for her was to mop.

Hello Mr Mercier. How are you?

Hello Mr Mercier.

I saw them from afar each day,
sometimes her, sometimes him.

I exchanged a few nice words.

They were fond of me.

So the invited me
to dinner this time.

I brought an impressive
flower bouquet

almost too impressive,
but not quite.

Magnificent! Excellent choice.

I must confess i didn't
choose them myself.

No, but you chose the man
who chose for you.

Andre will tell you it
boils down to the same.

What a terrible theory.

- He knows it.
- What do I know?

Hartman insisted upon
preparing the diner himself.

No doubt to prove he
was a great writer but a simple man.

I found him rather ridicule.

Same thing.

The diner was simple and delicious.

And later on

as we sat in
wonderful armchairs

enjoying his wonderful Cognac,

that i first experience
that monstrous feeling

that were to guide
me from now on.

I may be a looser but

one can't hold it against me
not to be aware of it,

to nourish impossible dreams,
to deceive myself.

As i experienced it, I
was able to analyse that feeling

with a total lucidity.

It wasn't jealousy,
for I didn't feel

no injustice or bitterness.

It was more a kind of envy

but so full, total,
absolute and absorbing

that i knew it
would lead me to violence.

So I knew perfectly well
that my goal was to intrude

this happy couple's universe.

To be part of it, to cling
to it like ivy to a wall.

To fill this man's shoes,

to replace the man who
shared my first name.

To fully take his place


to fill in every corners.

I also knew this goal

was impossible to reach,

yet i was to waste
all my strength on it.

I decided to strengthen the bonds

to see them all the time,
make myself irreplacable.

But how to achieve that

in such a perfect rounded universe?

So perfect that it was
the source of my obsession.

Andreas won the
game easily that night.

He was glad.

From that moment on,
I managed to see the regularly

When I wasn't invited,
I invited them in return.

I didn't take them to fancy places,

for they knew I wasn't rich.

But I made no effort
to appear to be.

I was joyful, simple, honest.

Quite the easy guy.

I had never been nicer
before in my life.

But i suffered immensly

for I didn't make any progress.

I saw them more and more often,
but had no real influence on them.

I merely slipped on
the surface of their happiness.

Because of that, I had to
fulfill smaller obsessions.

For instance,

I wanted to go to the first floor

to their bedroom and bathroom.

It would have been easy
just to ask them

They would gadly
have shown it to me.

But I wanted to go there uninvited,

to deceive them in a way.

So i used a scheme.

You are daydreaming, sad.

- I'm sorry.
- it's the rain.

We are mediterraneeans,
rain makes us sad.

- You are not sad...
- No.

Germany is a green country.

Green all over.

On the map, it is green.

That's thanks to the rain.

The greenery.

- Good.
- I'm sorry.

In fact i like rain.

How clumsy of me.

you hurt yourself!

You're mad. I'll get a bandaid.

- Does it sting?
- No.

I'll get you a handkerchief.

Is this your room?

- Nice isn't it?
- Lovely.

I smiled and was happy.

I had got what I wanted.

Through mischief.

But the next day,
a bucket of cold water.

I felt something was going on.

I moved closer.

That's what i thought.

They had visitors and
didn't ask me to come over.

They were having fun without me.

I was only good to entertain them.

The measly scribbler Mercier
was only a fool to the great

the famous Andreas Hartman.

I was furious.

I decided to be a party pooper.

Discretly of course.


- Are you the frenchman?
- Yes madam.

I'll switch it off, excuse me.

Will you help me?

Thank you.

Hello Albin.


- You write?
- Yes.

Short stories?

Yes, articles, tales,
small stories for better understanding.

Andre must be apalled.

- Andre must be hostile.
- Andre is not hostile.

He is merely realistic.

He will explain it some day.

He decided to go to
the lake this afternoon.

As soon as Andre
has finished working.

The water is nice.

- I don't care for it. Only if it's extremely nice.
- You are suspicious.

- Have a drink instead.
- Yes, that i'll do.

- Whisky.
- Yes.

I'll get it.

- You know Giska?
- That's me.

She's yougoslavian. She has more
trouble with the languages than you.

She can't speak german,
and forgot her yogoslavian.

So she speaks french.

She's very popular
around our american friends.

- Isn't that right Giska?
- Yes.

I was surprised
she greeted me so well.

She didn't find odd that
I came uninvited.

Like it was usual,
like I was always welcome.

I wondered if Andre
would act the same way.

We'll go swimming.

Nice little Albin.

Nice little Albin, you not make
long face like this, yes?

For a frenchman, you are
not really gallant.

You stand in your corner

Not very polite.

"O time, suspend your flight!
and you, happy hours"

"suspend your race"

"suspend your race"

"let us savor the fleet delights

of our fairest days!"

- Come little Albin.
- No.

The water is so nice.

- Come on Albin.
- No, thanks.

Come in the water.

Leave me alone. I can't swim...

Why didn't you say it?

I hated him.

I held him responsible
for everything.

He humiliated me
and I wanted revenge.

I conjured up a small vengence.

Make him pay back, without
giving up my goal.

I wanted to regain my honor
for my sake.

We went for a picnic.

What's the matter?
Andreas wants to talk to me?

Yes. And he wants me to

I gathered. Seems a bit formal.

Andre is always formal
when he is serious.

He did some hard
thinking during his life.

He believes he solved
all of his problems.

He's a happy man.

And he realized the other day
that it was not your case.

All that swinning business.

He thinks it left you
with a bad memory.

He wants to know
if you realize...

that it is your fault.

He asks if you are
aware of that.

It doesn't matter.

What are you saying?

He says it matters immensly

and i told him you
certainly don't realize that.

He says that you had told him
that you couldn't swim,

and it would not have happened.

But you didn't dare.

You wanted to follow the others.

Entire populations are led this way.

This feeling is the source
of all human depravities.

War is the consequence of that feeling.

Some say war is absurd.

It's not true.

Everything has it's reason.

The reason for war is for not
accepting what we are.

That's also why a captured
tuna bangs its head against the wall.

- Do you understand?
- Yes.

The war left me a broken man.

It left me empty and hard.

For 15 years I drank to forget.

I worked and earned my living

but i was a wreck

and people
pretended not to notice.

They thought I was
foolish and quaint.

In fact i was nothing
but a wreck.

I asked for nothing.

Telling me all this was obscene.

It was obvious, no need to tell me.

I'm fond of you.

Albin, your a bad swimmer
but a good driver.

All their glee and happiness
were irritating.

And he bored me with his
succesful writer philosophy.

This day had been a real nightmare.

But something cheered me up.

Andreas was to leave the
next day to give some lectures.

Lectures! About the true
way to happiness, no doubt.

It was all for the best.

I suggested to spent
the evening in a cabaret.

Hartman was cheerful.

After the ethics came
the history lessons.

Munich, birthplace of nazism,
destroyed by the war and rebuilt.

This man was obsessed with the war,
with Hitler, with militarism.

He was so convincing that
the city began to scare me.

Yet I couldn't care less
about all this.

"Parisian nights", the Munich way.

This is a show that
gave you food for thought.

I had to get ahead and I sensed this
trip was the perfect opportunity.

From the good friend
of good company that I was,

I had to become intimate.

I was so agreeable, so nice, so helpful.

But I could be more.

Infinitely more.

Given my friendship with Helene

and my deep sincere admiration for the famous Andreas Hartman.

In the meantime, the show
didn't make them feel at ease.

It didn't bother them
nor left them cold.

They were there, together,
and everything slid off them.

And this night,the notion
came to me to commit a crime.

Oh, a very small crime.

On their car.

I'm a patient man.

I waited for them to fall
asleep and I went for it.

I left as I came
and went to bed.

They were to leave by 9 am.

I was up by 7 am, to calm me down.

My plan was to work
without a glitch.

It did.

They tried to start the car.

To no avail of course.

Andreas looked under the hood,
but found nothing.

The great Hartman
was a poor mechanic.

I began to get upset.

I prentended to walk by
as by accident.

What's wrong?

We can't get the car started.

I'll give you a hand.

I don't know what it is.

But it's going to take some time.

I had better drive him myself.

That's very nice but...

It'd be happy to,
in exchange for all your goodness.

Stop making me feel awkward.

Thank you Albin, thank you!

He was having fun,
he felt I owed him that much.

I'll walk you to the car.

Thank you Albin.

What did he say?

He says he leaves
you to take care of me.

Is it wise?

He thinks so.

The swimming incident
ended up as a victory after all.

But i felt embarrassed.

I didn't know how to handle it.

The stake was huge and
yet my mind was a muddle.

That return trip was very pleasant.

I discovered a very different
Helene from the one I imagined.

She put me at ease in the most
charming and subtle way.

Albin you are fascinating.

- Fascinating?
- Yes.

I find you mysterious.

We discussed it the other
night with Andre.

For instance, we tried to guess your age.

- My age?
- Yes.

Sometimes you seem very young,
and sometimes an elderly.

- Really?
- Yes.

So how old are you, 20 or 40?

30 of course.

Well you never look 30.
Either 20 or 40.

Well I was hiding it,
but I'm in fact 75.

Today is my birthday
and i'm taking you to lunch.

With great pleasure.

With her, everything was easy.
We were like old friends.

I offered to fix the car

and took a nap in
the shade of its engine.

Are those your feet?

And how!

I'm coming.

Will you have some tea?

I certainly deserve it.

I think it works.

Splendid, I almost lost hope.

- You really are mysterious.
- Nothing mysterious about it.

I have always been keen on mechanics.

Let's sit down.

I'm filthy.

Work never gets you dirty.

I offer you a bath but
teatime first.

I'll dirty the china.

China can't be dirtied.

Besides this is not a china cup.

Some cake.

I bathed and took Andreas's wardrobe
that Helene nicely offered earlier.

At last, I had become
their intimate friend.

We dined at home,
at Helene's I mean.

A light meal for none
of us was hungry.

I left around 11 pm.

She thanked me again and I said:

See you tomorrow.

I did not hurry back to my place.

Nice day.

So nice that my excitment
kept me awake for some time.

I woke up late and forced
myself to work till midday.

But this morning, my usually
mediocre prose was downright sordid.

I couldn't hold it anymore
and i went there.

The car and Helene were gone!
- Is she gone to Munich?



What "gift" ?

The hell with you.

I couldn't make it out.
I was furious.

She didn't mention anything.

Shut up old hag!

Even Elsa was gone.
That bitch made the most of it.

She went home at 11 pm.

Her gifts weren't very heavy,
her hands were empty.

I was upset.

She was hiding something, a secret.

She wasn't who she appeared,
she was lying.

I decided to hit hard on the
next morning, just to be sure.

I wanted to ask her to explain
herself, but it would have been stupid.

I decided to act a little sad,

to intrigue her.

Hello Helene.

Hello Albin.

I woke up late yesterday.
When i came by you were gone.

I had some business in Munich.

I could go, thanks to you.

- Thanks to me?
- Yes, you fixed the car.

Sit down.

No, i'm fine.

You seem lost in your thoughts.

I'm a bit sad.

A few days moutain air
can get you down.

It does that to me sometimes.

- May I sit on the floor?
- Of course.

I couldn't intrigue her less.

She just followed my tune.

When i was gay, she was gay.

When melancholic, she became melancholic.

A real chameleon, a mask.

Or rather a series of masks,
all of them convincing.

All af them easy on the interlocutor.

- Helene?
- Yes?

I'm sorry if i'm sad today.

It's the mountain air.

No, i don't think so.

I think it's you.

Me? Why me?

It's all my fault.
It's the way I am.

I can't hold you
responsable for what I am.

What are you?

A looser.

Why do you say such things?

- You are exquisite.
- Exquisite.

I'll make you a confession.
I am poor.

- I was born poor.
- So was I.

My father died when I was young.
My mother...

Give me a cigarette.

I'm boring you...

Of course not, but you
shouldn't torture yourself.

I don't.

Quite the opposite.

My mother provided for everything
by making sacrifices.

I meant the world to her.
And I was happy with her.

I loved her.

- She died?
- Yes.

But it's something else.

I was a good son
when she was alive.

But ... how to put it...

I wasn't the star pupil.
I gave her no satisfaction.

I told her about me
and tried be be sincere.

Not for the love of honesty
but as a way to be persuasive.

Maybe if I acted sincere,
she would reveal herself.

I only lied about what
seemed necessary.

I was so confused,
and she was so good and soft.

So understanding, you know?

She was my first love experience.

There were no other women before.

I never loved before.

Just my mother, this woman... and you.

- What was her name?
- Her name was...


It's nice of you to tell me this.

I'm madly in love with you Helene.

I only think about you.

Albin, you are nice,
and I like you a lot.

It's getting cold, this wind
is cooler than it appears.

- Let's go inside.
- Yes.

How did she do it?

How can a woman push you away

so nicely that you don't even feel sad,

if you want to be sad
or only want to appear so.

I wasn't even sad.

As always with her,
it was harmonious.

For a moment I was
afraid I had played my last card.

But in this armchair in the living room,

I found myself surrounded once more
by the calm of familiar objects,

may they be borrowed or stolen.

This incident hadn't thrown
me back one inch.

I was still a friend,

their friend,

This was a misfired shot.


I had feared facing Hartman.

If Helene told him about it
as I feared,

this could be a tricky situation.

I didn't get that.

He was asking you how
were those three days.

Her glance could mean
only two things.

First: she didn't want me
to mention my declaration,

but why should I,

or second: I was not to mention
her absence two days earlier.

Suddendly the mirror cracked.

I became certain of one thing
that filled me with anger.

Helene was cheating on her husband!

Lunch is served.

So this harmonious happiness I envied so

was all a web of cheats and lies.

Following her like this
was a necessity and a satisfaction.

On one hand I wanted to make sure.

On the other, I enjoyed
the unique pleasure

of triumphing over Hartman
on at least one point:

The lucidity about his wife.

In that respect, Helene
was closer to me than she was to him.

More my wife than his.

I didn't take my eyes off her.
He knew her whole schedule.

Sometimes she went out
to see some friends, Gyska or others.

I could tell what day of the week,

for how long,

and what she did afterwards.

Some other times, she
went for a drive all by herself,

while Hartman was working.

I dared not following her
because I respected her solitude,

but mostly because
it would have exposed me.

She went to Munich
two times a week.

Following her there was
even riskier.

In the big cities, you always
feel someone is behind you.

Maybe I also feared facing the truth.

I spent almost
every nights at their place.

But I knew this harmonious
atmosphere I had envied was fake.

She had a lover in Munich.

I would reach my goal before long.

I didn't realize it had changed.

It was an ugly caricature
of what I had envisionned.

As for Hartman,
all he cared about was his book.

He spoke about it
with deep glorification.

Against this or that.

Never in favor.

He wanted it to contain
all his thoughts and experiences.

Elderly warriors.

Poor cuckold

She had a lover in Munich.

I was sure of it.

I was going mad.

I was at a loss.

He had to break it
into the open.

What was a game of wits
was now a game of strength

and I was feeling weak.

I had to jump in the water
like a child who cannot swim.

I decided to follow her
in her next Munich trip

until the end this time.

to Hell if necessary.

I took many risks.

It was a miracle that
she did not notice me.

This Helene was unknown,

totally different from
the ones she showed me.

Impatient and happy

like I've never seen her before.

This was her true face.

This was neverending.

"To Hell" as I had foreseen.

A strange Hell.

So it was him.
That was it.

A nice face, a looser, a punk.

She was mixing
with the lower class,

like a common
bored bourgeois's wife.

What a waste.

They had invited
me that same night.

But the result of this stalking
was that I was feeling depressed.

I arrived in a dreadful mood.

I tried to smile.

Helene was acting sweet too.

As for Hartman, he was
happy, kind, peaceful.

He was the happier of the three.

I thought about a vaudeville
play glorifying cuckold,

and for all my despair,
I laughed nervously.

I'm sorry.

What's with you, Albin?

I was suffering like Hell.

I felt as cheated as Andreas.

I knew then what
I had to do.

Without admitting it,
I knew where this was leading.

Good Heaven.

It was no excuse
but I couldn't hold it anymore.

The envy, hatred and fantasms
were consuming me

and these people
had provoked it.

They would not get away with it.

It took me a week
to gather everything.

Everything was set.

It all took place
in the few next hours.


I followed her as usual,

she was taking a lonely stroll.

I had planned everything.

It was crucial that
Helen could not follow me later on.

- Helene.
- Albin.

What are you doing here?

I followed you.

I feared this might happen.

- I'm sure you are wrong.
- Good.

Don't speak yet, it's useless.

What a strange look on you.

What's the matter,
are you trying to intrigue me?

Don't be so conceited.


I said :
"don't be so conceited".

Are you mad?
Have you been drinking?

That would be
reassuring, wouldn't it?

Listen Albin, I don't know
what's with you, but do me a favor.

Leave me alone.

- You want to be left alone?
- Yes.

- To resume you lonely stroll?
- Yes.

You like long lonely
walks in the woods?

Yes, i like long lonely
walks in the woods.

You also like the crowd,
the city and popular fests.

No, I like the countryside,
some quiet and solitude.

Yes, you do.

You like the rabble,
strong odors, sweat,


I like softness.

And also brutal violence.

Don't deny it.

I know everything.



I see.

What are you?

A blackmailer?

I'm not a blackmailer.

You think I want
to blackmail you?

What then?

The hell if I know...

I want you to leave Andreas.

I don't want to see
you together.

I can't bare it.

Leave him.

Go away with me.

Poor Albin.

Do not call me that.

If I wanted, I'd force
you to have sex right now.

Do you hear?

Leave Hartman tonight!

No, i'll never leave him.

This is an order.

Calm down.

OK, i'll show him
the pictures.

It's useless.

We'll see.

Stupid fool.

- Andre knows.
- It's not true.

You judge people
according to your standarts.

But we are made of stronger wood.

We don't wine about ourselves.

You can't understand
the bond between Andre and I.

You are lying, I see
it in your eyes.

Am I?

I'll do it. We'll see.

Wait. Listen to me.

When I met Andre,
he was on the brink of suicide.

He had lost the will for life,
the belief in himself nor anyone.

Same as me.
I was as low as he was.

We saved ourselves.

We are united for life.

One does not exist
without the other.

Right. And where does
this guy fit in the picture?

None of your business.

- You sleep with him.
- Yes.

And Hartman is an indulgent husband.

- Yes he knows.-
- I don't believe it.

- Let's go away together.
- No.

I'll tell him everything then.

It's useless.

I can't go back now,
I went too far.

Please don't go.

Please don't go Albin,
what's in it for you?

My name is Andre Mercier.
Albin in my nom-de-plume.

Where is Hartman?

What are you saying, stupid?
Where is Hartman?

What a surprise.

Drop it, here are
some nice souvenir shots.

Happiness is a fragile thing.

All was left to do was wait.

Dear God!

No, Andre, no!

My love.

It can't be...
Helene, my love...

Andreas, it's my fault.

I did it all.

It was I who
killed her, not you.

Listen to me please!

I'm a monster,
I don't deserve to die.

Let me tell them
I killed her. Let me confess.

Have pity on me.
Try to understand.

I don't care.

They took him away at dawn.

I tried to understand
I was responsable.

They didn't get it,
they didn't believe me.

What did he say?

He said: "I pity you".

I called the newspaper
to tell them I wanted to go back.

They refused.

So I quit.

I moved to a provincial
town, but it didn't work.

There was nothing I could do.

All I told this story to people
who shrugged their shoulders.

I can't help telling it.

They don't believe it,
they don't understand.

They can't figure out when
a nice boy like me

takes pleasure in
tarnishing his reputation.