“Cousin Jules” – a Movie For Meditation


The ping of a hammer on steel is an unforgettable sound. I used to equate it with farriers, shoeing horses. When my son became an artisan blacksmith, I learned it is also the sound of hammering hooks, hinges and door handles. Upon hearing that a film called “Cousin Jules” was about a blacksmith, my husband bought tickets to a small viewing. I was tired, and part of me wished we had not committed to going out. By the end of the hour and a half, we were so refreshed and energized that we came home and sent and responded to emails until one o’clock in the morning! The next day, after less sleep than usual, we were still full of energy. What made the difference?

Most movies today are fast-paced with multiple images crowding the screen. I leave the theatre drained. Within a few days, I have forgotten the plot and can barely remember the title. The experience of seeing “Cousin Jules” (which will be available by DVD in late May) is just the opposite. The plot is unimportant, but the cinéma vérité brings you into the life of the French peasant couple in their late 80s. She sits on a chair outside and peels potatoes. He works the bellows of the forge with his left arm so accustomed to the task, it appears isolated from the rest of his body. They eat in silence, but for a few unimportant phrases like, “it’s hot,” or, “You want some more?” (All in subtitles.)

What moved me was the pace and simplicity. Throughout the film, the camera barely left their property, panning out on a few occasions over an unremarkable line of trees along the horizon, and a graveyard upon a hill. Otherwise, it focused on their hands, their faces, and the basic activities of cutting bread, dipping a bucket into a well for water, eating and shaving. You might think it boring, but it was not.

The effect of watching such beautiful cinematography was like meditating for an hour and a half. My mind was clear as we drove home. The usual list of “to dos” had vanished from my psychic terrain of responsibility, and I felt inwardly spacious. Paul and I reviewed little details of the movie as if savoring chocolate truffles. I was reminded of the need for space in every day. Simple pleasures give the deepest benefit. Every moment is sacred.

What do you do to create space in your life?

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10 Responses to “Cousin Jules” – a Movie For Meditation

  1. joaneee says:


    Now, more than ever it seems, our lives are crowded. However — while it has taken me years – I have learned to say: ” I am sorry but I can’t – perhaps another time.” “NO” sounds harsh, but each of us needs space for quiet and renewal . . . and we must pace ourselves to consider ourselves whole.

    One other important thing: I have ” a room of my own” — a room filled with quiet and sunshine and birds singing outside. It is mine alone and I call it my haven. When I close the door of my room, I don’t need a further sign that says “Don’t Come In”, THAT is understood. I choose if I answer the phone, sometimes nap, but – as a part time writer – I need that quiet, that silence that allows my words to flow on paper almost magically. For those short periods of time, I am in my other world . . . and I love it. And need it. I return refreshed, revitalized, ready to take on the world again with joy.

    Those around me actually profit by this time alone — as once that door is opened, I have a whole new lease on life and am filled with joy — and I find that joy is catching . . .and the world again is right. . right for us all.

    • Joannee, your comment reminds me of Virginia Wolfe’s “A Room of One’s Own.” It’s so important to define our spaces, as a means of giving ourselves freedom. One of life’s many paradoxes. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Ginny says:

    What a lovely story and reminder, Eileen. I particularly enjoyed the image of being “inwardly spacious”. I create inner spaciousness by handling outer clutter and partially completed tasks. It soothes and energizes me to have order in my outer world. It creates calm and spaciousness, enabling me to feel and be more present.

    I always enjoy your blogs and the questions you invite us to consider at the end. Many thanks!

  3. Rebecca says:

    What a wonderful description! I look forward to seeing the movie!! When I go down to the barn and the donkey asks for a longer schmooze, or the cat and I visit on a bale of hay, the spaces open. Last night, it was a walk with the dog and then watching while a kingfisher repeatedly dove for food in the beaver pond. Moments like that, it is impossible to do anything but just watch and listen, even if it is a short moment. My vegetable garden is another place, although often the list of ‘what needs to be done next’ intrudes. We’ve added a grape arbor and a bench in the garden, and sitting there with a cup of tea or coffee can be a good space, shifting it to a time to be in the garden without “doing”.

    • Dear Rebecca, I love imagining you touching noses perhaps with the cat on a bale of hay or watching the kingfisher dive into the beaver pond. Today I watched a very brazen woodchuck come right up on our front terrace several times! We can’t figure out what he’s after!

  4. Elaine Naddaff says:

    Beautiful, memorable sounds can be transfixing, as you have so gently relayed about your son’s
    craft,as an artisan blacksmith. Materials can bring so much light into one’s work, be they rough edged and unpolished, or silky and delicate– “whatever”. Music has that immortal quality that creates breathless awe at times for me– classical music, you know…

    Movies are complex and do move one into a space that is unimaginable. The many dimensions of a good movie are energyzing, just like a good walk in the air at a doable pace! The blacksmith and his wife, their “la France profonde” existence takes me back to Princeton, New Jersey. My husband Kent and I rented a 18th c blacksmith’s house, 16 Alexander Road, our first year of marriage. The small house was owned by Princeton University and the professor and wife who lived in the house were taking a leave. I found the rental in the newspaper! Kent and I spent a memorable first year of marriage, after graduate school in the blacksmith’s house. I commuted daily, four hours to NYC to my consulting job and Kent walked a few short minutes to his job in town with an investment bank. Our monthly rent of $475 was manageable. Last year I saw that the house was for sale for $800,000!!!! I gasped. I thought it would be nice to return to the blacksmith’s house for a few years, renting, as we do these days… Out of the question, the hard working blacksmith’s house, nestled on the same street as many houses built by an acclaimed
    architect had survived, nicely, with an indelible historic presence.

    I “bet” your son knows the blacksmith’s house in Princeton, New Jersey. Unlike the movie
    “Cousin Jules” which was undertaken 40 years ago and came to be in 2013, your son must have picked up the old blacksmith’s house vibes, somehow during his Princeton years and took up the
    art, as a result– magical mystery…

    I do many things to create space in my day and never stop thinking about things… see you in summer…

    • How cool that you lived in the blacksmith’s house in Princeton many years ago! Actually our son started blacksmithing at age 8 after visiting Colonial Williamsburg and then volunteering at a local museum. He worked with several mentors and eventually was given an apprentice job at the Anderson Blacksmith Shop in Colonial Williamsburg before going to college! What an adventure.

      what are your favorite classical music pieces?

  5. Phyll says:

    Sounds like a beautiful movie. I can really relate to your sentiments about watching a slow-paced film, with lovely landscapes and close-ups and feeling as if you’ve meditated for a while. I prefer these types of films, too, and am not into action/adventure or reality TV or anything similar. Films with a good story and meaningful relationships are unforgettable and soothing. I look forward to seeing “Cousin Jules” when it comes out on DVD.

    To create space in my life, I plant flowers, burn scented candles, make cookies, read, listen to melodic music and relax with my pup and kitties when at home. Driving Dancer in our carriage or cart always takes me out of my “reality zone” of worries & woes and creates more than space — a creation of heaven-on-Earth! 🙂

  6. It sounds like you have many resources to create space in your life Phyll. Thanks for sharing. You’re an inspiration.

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