Wednesday, June 22, 2022

French Movie Mercredi: Marguerite et Julien (2015)

Marguerite et Julien poster.jpg

Marguerite et Julien, the 2015 movie based on the true story of the Ravelet siblings who were executed in the 17th century for incest and adultery, is definitely a hot mess. I have to admit it's also one of my favorite recent(ish) French films. It was directed by Valérie Donzelli from a script originally written with François Truffaut in mind. I wish both versions existed.

Marguerite and Julien are raised together in a castle in the French countryside, protected by wealth and privilege, fairytale siblings in a magic tower. They are inseparable as children but their parents (and their priest uncle) see something unsavory in their devotion. Julien is eventually sent away to school along with their brother Philippe. When the boys return as young men, Marguerite has grown up too and is about to married off. She and Julien rediscover each other and chaos ensues.

It's melodramatic, overwrought and full of crazy anachronisms; it's more like historical fantasy than historical fiction. It has a silly framing device of a schoolteacher telling the legendary story of Marguerite and Julien to a room of enraptured girls in a dormitory,  really too young to be hearing this story. The sex isn't even very sexy; the one time we see them having sex, it's actually kind of gross.  But this movie still gets me every time.

For one thing the leads play it totally straight without a hint of irony while everyone else collapses into histrionics. When they run away I was totally on their side and the windswept, seaswept French landscape captures their emotional state so beautifully. And that final dash to shore felt like Orpheus and Eurydice. 

So it's definitely one for the grownups, not like Petite Maman, and most critics hated it. I'll stand by it as a guilty favorite.

No comments: