Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
Alternate title: The King’s Daughters
France/Germany/Belgium, 2000. Archipel 35, Arte France Cinéma, Atelier Cinéma de Normandie, Canal+, Centre National de la Cinématographie, Cinéart, Cofimage 10, Entre Chien et Loup, FMB Films, France 2 Cinéma, Les Films du Camélia, Lichtblick Film- und Fernsehproduktion, Sofica Sofinergie 5, Sofygram 3, UGC International, Westdeutscher Rundfunk. Screenplay by Philippe Lauro-Baranes, Patricia Mazuy, Yves Thomasbased on the novel La Maison d’Esther by Yves Dangerfield. Cinematography by Thomas Mauch. Produced by Denis Freyd. Music by John Cale. Production Design by Thierry Francois. Costume Design by Edith Vesperini, Jean-Daniel Vuillermoz. Film Editing by Ludo Troch.
Louis XIV’s unofficial wife Madame de Maintenon (Isabelle Huppert) decides to head up a school for impoverished girls of noble birth that will offer a liberal education and create a new force of femininity that didn’t exist as an option in her day. It also serves as an opportunity to aid the unification of the French language, which at the time was a smattering of various dialects that were often unreconcilable between people of various provinces. Maintenon begins to fear the wrath of the crown when she notices that the girls’ liberal behaviour is getting out of control, becoming exceedingly pious and enlisting a priest to become head of the school. He turns it into a highly observant, almost fascistly narrow-minded breeding ground of religious fervour, but not without a fight from some of the students. Concentrating on the experiences of two particular young women, one a shy and sweet girl and the other a headstrong, stubborn lass, this sober, dispassionate Prime Of Madame Jean Brodie is boosted by beautiful period detail and the always luminous Huppert, but is as wooden as similar efforts such as The King Is Dancing and Marquise in its attempt to deconstruct France’s past in order to understand its present.