Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
This tale of seventeenth-century incestuous lovers, based on a true story, was originally written as a script by Jean Gruault that Francois Truffaut was to film but never did. Actor Jérémie Elkaïm and director have resurrected the project and written their own adaptation, about the children of a French aristocrat who take refuge from their cruel world in each other’s arms. After their a passionate affair scandalizes their world, their parents attempt to put a stop to the relationship by marrying her off to an abusive nobleman, but she eventually escapes him and goes back home where she reconnects with her brother. They then run away and become something of a local legend, the film is actually told using the conceit of a room full of orphans being narrated the tale as a bedtime story. Donizelli has some fun with the setting, including Sofia Coppola-esque anachronisms on the soundtrack and modern sights like helicopters (a la Jacques Demy) amid all the period dresses, but her embellishments on the film’s visuals only emphasize how shallow the characters are. Having children in the framing device and encouraging a sense of a fairy tale is likely a way to mitigate the ickiness of the story, but , as Marguerite, and Elkaim as Julien share little chemistry and aren’t in the least bit convincing as siblings, so their love affair is hardly sympathetic and its unsavoury nature is only off-putting in theory. Donizelli never seems sure about whether or not she wants them to be flesh and blood characters grounded in a kind of realism, often having them spout breathy poetic dialogue that suggests that they are meant to be symbols instead.