Bearing traces of the old Anton Chekhov play The Wedding, The Contract is set during an “arranged” ceremony. The bride and groom barely know each other, but this matters not at all to their tradition-bound families. At the last minute, the bride balks. Only slightly nonplused, the groom’s father, a status-seeking doctor, decides to go ahead with the expensive reception anyway.
In this intricately layered film, the nature of actresses and what they gain from acting is explored. The lives of three actresses are laid bare, and scenes from their lives are woven in and out of interviews with each of them. Each of them has experienced a traumatic event which contributes to their particular enjoyment of becoming someone else in dramatic roles.
Louis Coline assists the head of advertising of a department store in decline. He has little to do, but seems content with his marriage to Nina, his visits to his mother and grandmother, and poker games with friends. When new boss Bernard Malair arrives to turn the store around, Louis fears for his job; but Bernard, with his numbers man Paul and his factotum François, invites Louis into an inner circle of long hours of work, nightclubs, and dinners with an androgynous vamp. Nina objects, but Louis cannot say no to Bernard’s demands, no matter how personal. In desperation, Nina leaves Louis, but that drives him further into Bernard’s orbit. Can anything break this spell?
João de Deus is the manager of an ice-cream shop owned by an ex-prostitute, Paraíso dos Gelados (Ice-Cream Paradise). Through a unmoved desire of perfection, he seeks, through cleansing and purity to attain heaven. The surrounding world, however, does not comply with his decaying vision of lust and decay as a way of achieving his purpose.
An elderly couple go about their routine of cleaning their gabbeh (a intricately-designed rug), while bickering gently with each other. Magically, a young woman appears, helping the two clean the rug. This young woman belongs to the clan whose history is depicted in the design of the gabbeh, and the rug recounts the story of the courtship of the young woman by a stranger from the clan.
Two segments. The first one arranges six stories from Cesare Pavese’s “Dialoghi con Leucò”, taken from classical mythology. The second segment is taken from Pavese’s novel “La luna e i falò”: after WWII the emigrant ‘The Bastard’ comes back to his village in the Langhe (northern Italy) to find that everyone he knew has died and the war has deeply changed relationships between people.
Horty, a French foundry worker, wins a contest and is sent to see the sailing of the Titanic. In England, Marie, saying she is a chambermaid on the Titanic and cannot get a room, asks to share his room. They do, chastely; when he awakens, she is gone, but he sees her at the sailing and gets a photo of her. When he returns home, he suspects that his wife Zoe has been sleeping with Simeon, the foundry owner. Horty goes to the bar, where his friends get him drunk and he starts telling an erotic fantasy of what happened with him and Marie, drawing a larger audience each night.
For more than three decades, aging Iranian Mohamad Sardari has worked as a crossing guard at a desolate train station. Through the years, Mohamad has done little to stifle the loneliness and boredom inherent in the job. Meanwhile, back at his family home, life is similarly uneventful: Mohamad’s wife passes the time sewing night and day, especially since the couple’s son left to join the army. As time passes, Mohamad mechanically continues to do his duty.