Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Les enfants terribles (1950)

This was on TV last night. I wonder if TV5 is doing a Melville marathon, because next week it will be Bob le flambeur.

Based on Jean Cocteau's famous novel (he also did the screenplay, narrated the movie and imposed Melville to cast his protegé Edouard Dermithe to play Paul) , Les enfants terribles is about two siblings, Elisabeth and Paul, who live in their own world. The relation between them is like incest. They play games with their own rules and often force their friend Gérard to join, like when they force him to steal a big water-pot. In the beginning of the movie, we see Paul still goes to school until the incident when his friend Dargelos, whom he secretly admires, throws a snowball which contains a stone to him. The weak Paul is injured and has to stay at home. Elisabeth now has to take care of Paul and their sick mother. After the death of their mother, Elisabeth finds work in haute-coutueur where she meets Agathe. She brings Agathe home and Paul is amazed with her resemblance to Dargelos (they were played by the same actress: Renée Cosima). Elisabeth is married, but her husband soon dies. Agathe and Paul falls in love with another and both confide in Elisabeth, but Elisabeth tells Agathe and Paul opposite things. Broken hearted, Paul kills himself with poison from Dargelos, and soon after, Elisabeth shoots herself; although the slogan "suicide is a mortal sin" is written on their mirror. The last scene when Elisabeth falls onto the floor after shooting herself is like the death of the man who wants to kill Silien in Le Doulos.

Even though people say Dermithe didn't play well, but his resemblance to Nicole Stéphane (Elisabeth) is amazing. See the poster. There are lots of close-ups on Stéphane and we can see that her Roman profile is similar to the marble bust (without the moustache). Apart from Elisabeth's death scene, my 2 other favourite shots are: 1) when Paul drags his blanket on the chequered tiles 2) The opening credit which shows Elisabeth's dream : a silhouette of hers standing on the right, a tree of the left, and Paul lying on the billiard table covered with a blanket. This image from the opening credit is, in my opinion, the most beautiful thing in the movie.

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