A young woman kills herself, leaving no explanation to her grief-stricken pawnbroker husband. We learn in flashback about how they met, married, and how she failed to adapt her lifestyle to...
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A young woman kills herself, leaving no explanation to her grief-stricken pawnbroker husband. We learn in flashback about how they met, married, and how she failed to adapt her lifestyle to his. Disgusted with his attempts to dominate her, she considered murdering him, but found herself unable to do it...Written by
Michael Brooke <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The nail in the coffin in this extraordinary film is very similar to the burnt out stake at the end of Bresson's 'The Trial of Joan of Arc'. It says quite simply, this is the end, it is finished. The tortured soul of the woman played to perfection by Dominique Sanda seeks a finality to her suffering, and her combat with the world. She has had enough of material values and struggles, and like any inwardly imprisoned soul, she achieves her release. The playing time of the film is short but it contains many images of the world surrounding her; a visit to a cinema and a mediocre film on the screen, watching a performance of 'Hamlet', giving too much money away in her pawnbroker husband's shop. She does not relate to this, and her husband, brilliantly acted by Guy Frangin, tries to tame her into accepting the ways of a selfish, money orientated world. She states clearly she is not concerned with money, and as far as I can see she marries out of a sense of despair and not love, perhaps knowing that her husband will push her to the limit of endurance and give her the strength to execute herself. As in the Joan of Arc story, she is resigned to execution as the only way out of an existence she cannot understand. For Elle (which literally means she) her husband will be her executioner, not by intent, but by simply being the very opposite to her with his soiled humanity. She aims a gun at his head and Sanda's eyes say it all. For a moment she wants to kill her killer, but knows by putting down the gun that she is the one to be killed, and that person can only be herself. As for the film itself, only Bresson could have made it, with his austere vision of the human hell we live in. Watch 'The Devil, Probably' and 'Mouchette' to see that only the killing of the body we inhabit can save us. A negative interpretation? I have no idea. It is just what I saw in this great and seldom seen film. I have a poor copy of it and it is a disgrace that unlike most of Bresson's films this one is so hard to find. It is up there with the finest he made, and his use of muted colour only enhances the trivialities and the transience of Paris in 1969. That Paris has gone, but a Paris with even more materialism has taken its place. For those who recall the city 50 years ago, it is moving to see a once celebrated bookshop 'La Hune' sandwiched between two cafes of literary repute, and to see the same place now transformed into an excess of empty luxury goods and even more monetary values. Elle in 'Une Femme Douce' would I believe sacrifice herself again.
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