Ursula leaves the convent where she was educated, to start living with her uncle, the count Ribera, and her aunt Florentine. When she arrives, she is confronted with a local drama: a ... See full summary »
Ursula leaves the convent where she was educated, to start living with her uncle, the count Ribera, and her aunt Florentine. When she arrives, she is confronted with a local drama: a youngman from the village, Lambert, whose sister took her own life, accuses the count of being responsible for his sister's death, for having sexually assaulted her. The two men have a duel of honour, in which Lambert is severely wounded, and the count's honour is saved. Ursula acts as a nurse to Lambert, and falls in love with him, only to find out that Lambert is secretly her aunt's lover. One night, the count too, finds out his wife's affair, and again the two men fight, this time Lambert kills the count. Ursula helps him to escape. Florence, mad with jealousy and hatred for her niece, sets the police after him. Written by
In Cinemascope and Technicolor, "The Night Heaven Fell" is spectacular in more ways than one. Vadim takes us across and through some incredible landscapes in Spain, using long shots to great effect. Then there is the spectacle of the virulent cult of bullfighting which comes into the film twice, the brutality of which is emphasized more than its cultural mystique. And that's obviously because this is as much Bardot's film as her husband's, and her evolution into an animal rights activist, which she remains today, is on full display here. Her scenes with the many animals in the film are full of genuine warmth and compassion, and even becomes an important plot point when her runaway outlaw lover wants to kill a piglet so they won't starve in the wilderness.
And of course the main spectacle for many (esp. males) is Brigitte Bardot herself, in all her youthful radiant vivacious libidinous glory. I personally had a pre-pubescent crush on her in the late 50's, when this movie came out. Of course I never saw one of her movies back then but photos in magazines, probably Life and Look or my mom's Photoplay. And there was that lobby card on display outside the Avalon theater on 75th street in Houston in '58 advertising "and God...Created Woman," showing the famous shot of Bardot in bed with a sheet just barely covering her not-so-private parts. It was a neighborhood theater that had turned into an "art" (adults only) theater that I walked by regularly, and I did stare at that still photo for a good long time as a 10 year old.
I still haven't seen many of her films, but in this film she proves her acting chops and also gets to expose her physical assets on a level American actresses were certainly not able to do, especially in a dramatic film of this caliber. It's kind of funny how Vadim paced the tease of the film for the horny viewer, exposing her incrementally almost like clockwork, culminating in a breast shot as Stephen Boyd falls on her to once again seal their doomed passion.
And that's what really raises this above any kind of titillating pulp romance, the authenticity not only of the sets and people, from all the amazing extras to the stars, but of the emotions the two lovers display. Bardot, whom I've lusted after for nearly 50 years, could act like Signoret or Moreau, at least in this film.
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