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The barge is the centrepiece of the film, the setting on which or around which the action of the film and the interaction between the characters take place. The relationships between the characters are affected by the place they live and work in, whether these relationships be of work, of love or of friendship. The barge is a doubly paradoxical space. First, it is at one and the same time a prosaic and spatially limited working space, as well as a limitless space of dreams. This is doubled by a second paradox: the barge is a space whose mobility suggests unlimited freedom, but this mobile space is contained within the linear constraints of a canal. The barge's journey is in fact a metaphor for idealism and the loss of idealism.

The limited physical space on the barge causes friction at times. Père Jules's multitude of cats annoy the other inhabitants as they get in the way and make living in such a small place even harder. Jean is infuriated by the clutter in Père Jules's room and so breaches what little privacy Père Jules has by destroying his things. For Juliette, the cramped physical space and the limited possibilities for excitement within the barge itself cause her to venture outside the world of the barge in search for fulfilment. While at times the confinement of the barge allows the relationship between Jean and Juliette to bloom, the physical constraints of the environment also cause emotional suffocation in their relationship.

The barge is also where work and recreation must coexist. At first, for Juliette, the barge represents possibilities for exploration. The mobility of the barge to her suggests travel, excitement and the opening up of the whole world before her. On her first morning on the barge she listens to the men's song and it lends an atmosphere of entertainment or holiday, even though it is a song about work. The reality is that they are here to work not play, and this starts to sink in before

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