A precursor to the early works of Michael Haneke, Violette Nozière is an unusually disturbing social drama, its characters too gullible to defend themselves. Isabelle Huppert is astonishing as the titular character, a believable enfant terrible considering her age at the time (twenty-five), and a stunning cinematic presence as ever. Director Claude Chabrol is subtler than his contemporaries in his treatment of the bourgeoisie, but his target is still clear, particularly in the reaction of Violette’s parents to her syphilis. Chabrol equates precocious sexuality with criminal behaviour, but simultaneously identifies the issues with chastity in modern society. Perhaps the biggest flaw with the film is its rhythm – Violette’s contempt for her parents isn’t sufficiently substantiated – but the Freudian overtones keep the action convincing even at its strangest moments. An underrated oddity, Violette Nozière is a film not to be taken lightly.
Saturday, 20 November 2010
Fourteen-year-old Violette is the rebellious daughter of a 1930s bourgeois family, already competent at manipulating adults despite her immaturity. Dressed in head-to-toe fur, she sneaks out of the house to bars where she works as a prostitute, using her earnings to fund her partner’s spending habits. When the family doctor reveals that she has syphilis, Violette manages to turn the situation to her advantage by claiming her parents gave her the disease genetically. In a cold-hearted decision, Violette dupes her father into drinking poison so that she can falsely accuse him of molesting her. As her situation worsens, she learns the hard way that every action has its consequence.