With tremendous on-screen charisma and the ability to convey as much with one look as some actors struggle to put across in a two hour movie, Audrey Tautou is definitely one of my favourite actresses.
Still most famous for Amelie, it is probably true to say that Audrey has never quite shaken off the quirky ‘cuteness’ of this much-loved character, so it was strange to see her playing such a completely different role as that of the title character in Claude Miller’s film Therese Desqueyroux.
I took the opportunity to see this film at the new Errol Flynn Filmhouse in Northampton which, as an additional point, is well worth a visit; boasting the most comfortable and spacious seating I have ever seen in a cinema.
Therese Desqueyroux is a dark, oppressive film, set in 1920s France and filmed in French (there are subtitles). It tells the story of Therese, who marries Bernard (played by Gilles Lellouche), the brother of her childhood friend Anne (Anais Demoustier).
The marriage is one that has been expected and approved since the pair were children, due to the fact that both come from wealthy and respectable families and are seen to be well matched.
But the marriage is unhappy from the outset, doing nothing to control the wild ideas Therese feared in her own head and which she hoped the peace of married life would help to dispel.
Therese watches jealously as her old friend Anne finds an exciting new, but highly inappropriate boyfriend. She then sets about to join forces with the family in the ultimate betrayal of her friendship.
The dark side of Therese’s character continues to unfold as she starts to tamper with her husband’s arsenic dosage; something he takes for medical reasons. But instead of freeing her, her actions end up making her feel even more trapped.
I know this film has been criticised for leaving more questions than it answers, but I think this is part of its charm. Audrey Tautou plays Therese as enigmatic and completely watchable but, just as she is a mystery to those around her, her motivations are still unclear to film-goers.
Why does she destroy Anne’s relationship? Why is she so unhappy with her husband? What are the ideas she is trying to suppress before her marriage? Why does she have so little attachment to her baby daughter? These are just some of the questions raised by the film and, although there are clues as to their answers, audience members will never be sure they are right in their conclusions.
But somehow, this just makes the film more interesting. Living in a world in which there are still arranged marriages and marriages of convenience, the movie proves an interesting study of what could happen when two opposing characters are joined together to suit other people.
Therese Desqueyroux will also be shown at the Errol Flynn Filmhouse on Monday, June 24 at 8.30pm and on Tuesday, June 25 and Thursday, June 27 at 6pm.