A newly hired maid for a rich countryside family befriends a post-office clerk who encourages her to rebel against her employers.


Claude Chabrol


Ruth Rendell (novel), Claude Chabrol (adaptation) | 3 more credits »
9 wins & 11 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Isabelle Huppert ... Jeanne la postière
Sandrine Bonnaire ... Sophie la bonne
Jean-Pierre Cassel ... Georges Lelievre
Jacqueline Bisset ... Catherine Lelievre
Virginie Ledoyen ... Melinda
Valentin Merlet Valentin Merlet ... Gilles
Julien Rochefort Julien Rochefort ... Jeremie
Dominique Frot ... Madame Lantier
Jean-François Perrier ... Priest
Ludovic Brillant Ludovic Brillant
Claire Chiron Claire Chiron
Claire-Marie Dentraygues Claire-Marie Dentraygues
Jean-Pierre Descheix Jean-Pierre Descheix
Penny Fairclough Penny Fairclough
Alain Françoise Alain Françoise


The upper-class owner of a gallery, Catherine Lelievre, hires the efficient and quiet maid Sophie to work in the family manor in the French countryside. Her husband Georges Lelievre, who is an opera lover, her daughter Melinda and her teenage son Gilles welcome Sophie and appreciate her work. Sophie soon befriends the postmistress Jeanne, who is a bad egg and encourages Sophie to rebel against her employers, but the maid stays submissive. However, Sophie is ashamed of a secret and feels uncomfortable in many situations, finding a way to hide her secret. When Georges tells Sophie that he does not want Jeanne in his house, Sophie stands up to him. Melinda discovers her secret and Sophie blackmails her, but Melinda tells her parents what happened. Georges fires Sophie and she returns to the house later with Jeanne on the rampage. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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Did You Know?


The author Ruth Rendell has said that Claude Chabrol's version of her novel "A Judgement in Stone" is one of the few film adaptations of her work that she is happy with. See more »


Georges Lelievre: [referring, respectively, to Sophie the illiterate maid and Jeanne the nosy postal clerk] What a pair: one can't read at all, and the other reads our mail.
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Referenced in To Each His Own Cinema (2007) See more »


Cello Symphony
Composed by Benjamin Britten
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User Reviews

Complex Psychological Thriller
6 January 2005 | by howie73See all my reviews

Based on Ruth Rendell's Judgment in Stone, French auteur Claude Charbol transplanted this quintessentially English thriller about class and guilt to France, where he can fire more bullets at his favorite target - the French bourgeoisie. Without giving too much away, the story unfolds at a slow pace to reveal the class divisions and complex psychological issues that drive the characters' motivations. Centring on an illiterate maid, Sophie, who goes to desperate lengths to hide her "disability" from her employers, the wealthy Lelievre family, she eventually strikes a bond with the local postmistress who has mysterious grudge against her friend's employers. This film provided Chabrol with plenty of opportunities to criticize the disaffected bonhomie of the Levlievre family, but at times his presentation of some members of the Levlievres actually enlists our sympathy and therefore strikes a blow to the validity of his critique of French bourgeoisie values. Perhaps this was his intent to create more ambiguity than most psychological thrillers in this genre would allow. It's worth watching for the climax alone which has a delicious twist worthy of a mass-market Hollywood sequel.

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France | Germany



Release Date:

20 December 1996 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

La Cérémonie See more »


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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital


Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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