Sunday, August 26, 2012

MADEMOISELLE (1966)


Mademoiselle, as she prefers to be called, is a small town schoolteacher who revels in the power she has over her young students, especially one student in particular. 

 

He is the son of a poor lumberjack, always dirty and unkempt and never having the right answer. These social disgraces give Mademoiselle an excuse to focus her degrading wrath upon him, borne as it is of sexual repression. 



The boy doesn’t see this as a sexual game, but a case of a hateful authority figure crushing him.  He festers with helpless anger, since the classroom is a microcosm of his entire world. She gets off on her power, but the boy doesn’t “get off” at all. 


As it happens, Mademoiselle's ultimate object of lust is the boy's father.  When the town is besieged by acts of destruction (the opening of a river dam, the burning of a barn, etc.), the lumberjack, a poor immigrant, is immediately presumed to be the perpetrator. 


Lo and behold, Mademoiselle is actually responsible for these crimes, but is never suspected due to her respected standing as a schoolteacher.  




After setting fire to the barn, Mademoiselle watches on in ecstasy as it burns to the ground.  She gets a momentary sadomasochistic thrill from this destruction. 
 

Mademoiselle has a side job typing up police reports, so, ironically, she is responsible for recording the accounts of her own crimes.  She knows full well these reports don't reflect any sort of truth, yet she doesn't feel guilt or even a fear of being caught.  She overhears several officials accusing the lumberjack, and she comes to his defense, pointing to his beautiful blue eyes as proof of his innocence. This is not a clumsy attempt at a confession, but rather,  these accusations encroach on his beauty, his perfection, and this is what must be defended, regardless of what the truth is.  The effect of her actions on the man that lies behind this beauty is irrelevant to her. 



She attempts to graduate from lashing out of repression to an actual sexual relationship with the lumberjack. When she approaches him for the first time, he is playing with a snake, certainly a dangerous phallic image. 



They spend a day in the forest making love, and one might think that this experience would finally free her from her destructive repression, but no.  



She uses his body and then throws him away, just as she destroyed the barn and crushed the spirit of his son. However, both father and son lack the social standing to have a say in the matter. After all, Mademoiselle is in charge. 

2 comments:

  1. ust watched this and thought it was great. I agree with much of your interpretation here. I thought a lot about the village aspect too. There seems to be an interesting thread of fear leading to scapegoating, leading to ritual sacrifice to cleanse the community of evil. Moreau is truly creepy (and yet still sexy?) as the schoolteacher and village sociopath. Nobody would suspect her and she knows it. She, ironically, is the evil they need to face. In turning away from this unthinkable truth, she is able to exploit the racist fears of the villagers and frame an innocent man. Oh, and she emotionally destroys his son, to top it off. A complex film.

    AZ

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    1. Yes, well put. Thanks for stopping by!

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