Monday, June 13, 2005

La Ceremonie (Claude Chabrol)

One of Chabrol's finest films, La Ceremonie is a delicate and frightening examination of class and its effect on the choices we're given. Sandrine Bonnaire plays Sophie, the maid of the wealthy Lelievre family. The Lelievres, far from the stereotypical bourgeois jerks we'd expect from lesser filmmakers, are mostly sympathetic, though occasionally insensitive and complacent. Sophie is illiterate, though she hides this from her employers and is in constant fear of being discovered. Sophie is strangely detached, partly from her illiteracy, partly from reasons we're given hints about but never told. She seems mesmerized by her television set, and often answers questions with "I don't know," even if she does. Sophie becomes friends with Jeanne (Isabelle Huppert), a child-like postal worker whose misdirected rage singles out the Lelievres as a symbol of both political and personal oppression. Chabrol is sympathetic to and critical of all his characters, and the film unfolds both mysteriously and logically. Every character has a reason for what he or she does, and Chabrol asks us to accept these reasons, even when we're being pulled in several directions at once. Motivations are another matter. The film is full of ambiguities, hints, and obfuscations that will reward repeat viewing, especially the disturbing final scene. This is a film meant to be experienced, not an economic lesson to be learned.

1 comment:

kristykay said...

This movie really was wonderful -- Bonnaire was the one that played Joan of Arc in the two part Arc-fest we recently had. Her stoic expression and harsh features work just as well in this role. I keep thinking about this movie....

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