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Vineyard owner marquis Philippe de Montfaucon is called back to his castle Bellenac because of another dry season. He asks his wife and children to remain in Paris, but they still come after him. His wife Catherine de Montfaucon soon discovers that her husband is acting mysteriously and that his employees are following old pagan rituals that call for the life of the marquis himself to save the crops.Written by
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Atmospheric horror dealt in a skillful and very sober way: this movie works more through suggestion, weaving its narrative through grand scenarios of uncanny intensity which is greatly enriched by the black and white colouring that casts a certain aura all over the action and sharpens the characters' peculiarities.
The plot revolves around an ancient curse that plagues a family, linked with a superstitious awe that borders on paranoia. In itself, it is nothing too original: the distraught mother observes with alarm the sudden changes that take place when her so far devoted husband returns to the family estate, a magnific medieval castle, and tries to unravel what is behind the revolution. Yet, its the subtlety with which the theme is approached that distinguish the movie as above average, and raise it to the standard of artistic endeavor as well as story-telling. I'd say that imagery, especially the vibrant contrast between dark areas of film to which correspond luminescent patches, is one of the most relevant and outstanding elements that craft this movie into looking like an animated painting of bizarre overtones.
With some hints of psychological drama that pervade the atmosphere (not the extent that is achieved with such movies as "The Haunting", 1963, but using the same basic approach) the tense environment is stressed and developed as a succession of drama-infused situations that escalate into a stunning climax.
The horror, something organic, in the old Gothic tradition, relies on the architecture to project its full impact upon a solid cast of actors, whose performances are perfectly in sync the overall attitude of uncomfortable beauty that sets the leitmotiv for the whole movie.
To this we add an ambiguous collection of character that hint at the possibility of the supernatural as well as providing enough dark innuendos to undercut the apparently peaceful family relations, a certain order of blood ties being shown and (potentially) unnatural; and an all encompassing narrative frame that is perfect enacted through the curse: not that in itself but the scenes that finally disclose the secrets pertaining said curse.
Overall, a very worthy effort that has aged well, and that actually be more enjoyable now, stripped of its more direct content and perceived more for the great art work that is the heart of the movie.
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