La Cérémonie

Not director Claude Chabrol’s first successful adaptation of an Anglo-Saxon crime novel – there was also Le Cri de Hibou (1987). It keeps you on edge, this story of how a post office cashier (Isabelle Huppert) becomes a major influence in Sophie’s (Sandrine Bonnaire) life and work as a hired help in a wealthy family’s home – the build-up leading to horrors is slow but frightening and expertly directed. Talk about class struggle gone terribly awry; there just seems to be no way to hinder the disaster that is coming, a sick “revolution” immersed in blood. The leads are both very impressive as two people whose friendship spells danger.

1995-France-Germany. 111 min. Color. Produced by Marin Karmitz. Directed by Claude Chabrol. Screenplay: Claude Chabrol, Caroline Eliacheff. Novel: Ruth Rendell (”A Judgment in Stone”). Cast: Isabelle Huppert (Jeanne Marchal), Sandrine Bonnaire (Sophie Bonhomme), Jacqueline Bisset (Catherine Leliévre), Jean-Pierre Cassel, Virginie Ledoyen, Valentin Merlet.

Trivia: The Canadian film Judgment in Stone (1986) is an earlier adaptation of the novel.

Venice: Best Actress (Huppert, Bonnaire).

Last word: “My last political film was ‘Poulet au vinaigre’. What I was interested in then was to show the provincial bourgeoisie as starkly as possible, not in too heavy a way, but so that that critique was definitely a feature of the film. Subsequently, I found no particularly stimulating social phenomena to observe. And it is only now, in the past two years, that I am beginning to reconsider. I had a conversation with a young hooligan which left me with a feeling that society was about to explode, or implode rather, because it’s not just a marginal phenomenon. So I decided to make something of this feeling, but not in too precise a documentary way.” (Chabrol, The Claude Chabrol Project)


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