Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
France, 2002. ARP Sélection, Canal+, France 3 Cinéma. Screenplay by Benoit Jacquot, Fabrice Roger-Lacan, based on the novel by Benjamin Constant. Cinematography by Benoit Delhomme. Produced by Laurent Petin, Michele Petin. Production Design by Genevieve Dufour. Costume Design by Catherine Bouchard. Film Editing by Luc Barnier.
A nineteenth century widow and mother of two (Isabelle Adjani) captures the fancy of the young son (Stanislas Merhar) of the local government Minister. She instinctively rejects his first overture of love to her, deciding that her duty towards society is more important than anything else, but eventually she succumbs to passion. Succumbs so greatly, in fact, that they become obsessively intertwined, only threatening to tear apart when he decides that he’s had enough and wants to get away from her. It then seems to be his destiny to stay with her for as long as she needs him, even if it means following her home to her glacially cold, native Poland when her father’s aristocratic status there is reinstated and she is given a new home. The whole plush period romance accompanied by doom has been done a thousand times before, and with more depth and more complex characters. Director Benoit Jacquot doesn’t find anything new in the material worth exploring, leaving the film feeling like a yesteryear version of his own The School of Flesh, though without the same character work or eventual outcome. His talent for showing true intimacy on the screen is here to be seen, but the leads aren’t very likable and we’re too used to seeing Adjani playing this role time and time again.
Toronto International Film Festival: 2002