An exquisitely murderous drama
cacb3995 - wrote on 09/23/18
Based on the 1977 novel “A Judgement in Stone” by Ruth Rendell, which in turn was inspired by real life events that transpired in 1933, “La Cérémonie” tells the story of young Sophie (Sandrine Bonnaire) as she’s hired as a maid by the well accomodated Lelièvre family. She’s shy and introverted, and has a disadvantage that’s revealed later on in the film but that still plays an important role, and even more important, there’s an event in her past that still exerts its influence on her. Being new in town, she quickly befriends Jeanne (Isabelle Huppert), a local girl who works at the post office and has an uncomplicated view on life. The problem is that her employers don’t want her hanging around with Jeanne, Mr. Lelièvre (Jean-Pierre Cassel) really dislikes her, and in spite of the efforts of Mrs. Lelièvre (Jacqueline Bisset) to keep the situation peaceful, it all inevitably heads on to an explosive finale. Claude Chabrol, who made his bones as a filmmaker in the Cahiers du Cinema group, even debuting as a director before both Truffaut and Godard, delivers a carefully constructed microcosmos that tackles class differences, the dangers of ineducation and intolerance, and what ultimately drives one to commit that which one most desires but is too afraid to do so.
This movie turned out to be quite unpredictable, even if you know what’s actually gonna go down by the end. You might think you’ve got it all figured out by some point, but all the twists and turns throw you off on a completely different direction, and yet, this being based on a true story one knows how it is supposed to end, but the plot machinations keep the audience guessing and trying to figure the whole deal out, and by the end one does not care as much about the what but rather the how. This is a testament to the screenplay. Adapting a real story to the screen is always a tricky ordeal, even if its based on a previous adaptation, in this case a literary work, since there are issues such as realism, believability and adaptibility in play, but I think the finished product is a very well written and executed screenplay. Written by Chabrol himself and Caroline Eliacheff, it starts slow and perhaps it does struggle to capture the viewer’s full attention during the first couple of scenes, but once the dynamics between the characters are established and the perceived end result starts to loom on the horizon, the film becomes a very riveting tale.