Thérèse Desqueyroux

Theresempi pictures

Why can’t the French leave the bourgeoisie alone? Why do they have to keep “indicting” them?

“But they are dull. They only care about their reputations and the things they own.” Well, maybe we’re dull too.

In Thérèse Desqueyroux we are given Bernard and, I suppose, a searing indictment of the bourgeoisie. Bernard is well off. He owns many acres of pine trees. He likes to go shooting wood pigeons with his dogs. He cares about his family’s reputation. He doesn’t read much but he has a good appetite. And the poor fellow suffers from chest pains. They worry him, even though he’s only in his early thirties, because his father died of angina.

We’re supposed to dislike Bernard but we can’t, because he marries Thérèse, who is awful. She doesn’t talk to him over dinner. She doesn’t interact with him when they have sex. She hardly says a word on their rainy honeymoon in Bavaria. Why? Presumably because she’s suffering under the weight of his dull bourgeois conventionalisms. A woman who lives in the French provinces? She must be stifled. A woman who reads literature from time to time? She must be suffocating.

The story looks set to begin twice – when Thérèse is jealous at her friend, Anne, because she has taken a lover, and when Thérèse begins to poison Bernard with arsenic. But those beginnings lead nowhere.

Audrey Tautou plays Thérèse. Gilles Lellouche plays her husband, Bernard. Anaïs Demoustier is Thérèse’s friend, Anne. Tautou and Demoustier can’t pull off being friends, mainly because there should only be a year or two between them, but Tautou was 35 and Demoustier was 24 when filming. The age difference shows. Demoustier looks like she’s in her first bloom. Tautou, playing it thin and troubled, is a world away.

Claude Miller directed, and it might just be another case of a man unable to get into his heroine’s heart. Only from time to time do we have an idea what Thérèse is thinking, and even then we never know what has made her think the way she does. What are her thoughts? Maybe the book is full of them. All we get on screen is an unsympathetic shell.

They should have done Thérèse Raquin instead.

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