“Loss of appetite is a dreadful blight!” Quand l'appétit va, tout va! So goes the song sung in unison by Asterix and Obelix in the 1968 animated film Asterix and Cleopatra(1), as the two famous Gallic heroes revel happily in a dreamlike scene featuring roasted boar and enormous slices of cake. This is a classic positive portrayal of a healthy appetite, designed to be both invigorating and heart-warming at the same time. Food-loving characters in films are often likeable too, invariably associated with bons vivants ready to take a bite out life, devour a book or swallow difficulties. Take the example of the colourful character Gérard, played by Eddy Mitchell in the film Le Bonheur est dans le Pré by Etienne Chatiliez.(2) When accused by his friend Francis of thinking only about what he wants to eat, he replies happily: “What can I say? I'm a simple guy! I appreciate the basic things in life!”
In contrast to these lovers of life, who “embody appetite” and “inspire”, as Vincent Chenille notes in his book on gastronomic enjoyment in film(3), how do we perceive characters suffering from lack of appetite or nausea? With suspicion, it seems, as evidenced once again in Le bonheur est dans le pré by Gérard’s tirade directed at Nicole, a woman with a lack of appetite and perceived to be a killjoy, during a dinner scene at a restaurant: “We don’t order broccoli steamed with Vittel water here; we order things we enjoy. Enjoy! You do know this word, don’t you?” This portrayal of a lack of appetite is thus linked to an inability to enjoy oneself, while Nicole’s character symbolises “the drama of the digestive system, which conveys gloominess, emotion and fear through its organs...(4)”.