A woman trapped in the world of 19th century men, comes to terms with the disillusionment felt by generations of women. Jeanne (Judith Chemla) has just completed her education. This is a remarkable thing in the 19th century. It is also in Normandy, where the prerequisite of a woman of her age is to marry and do so well. When she is married to a local Viscount Julien de Lamare (Swann Arlaud), he is poor and she rich by comparison. However he is a Viscount and she will become a lady. The truth is however this will begin the slow descent into reality. He will become a man of loose moral character and empty promises. She will become the woman that has to do it on her own.
In the face of the #metoo campaign and the casual misogyny of the presidents club, A Woman’s Life feels like it could be a tale of time immoral. Its themes of betrayal, male dominance and social collusion is even now very apt. Some have said how this is a damning reflection on 19th century life but that is naive and seems capricious. By linking the event in its time and then distancing yourself from its commentary. This is an open letter to today and men should take note. The film immerses itself inside the human experience. You feel the engagement all too readily. This is constructed simply. The camera is the key. Hard from its closeness to the character of Jeanne (played with subtly and tenderness by Judith Chemla) as she is forced to live in the entrenched gendered world. Director Stephane Brize uses the camera like Cassavettes did. Noting performance for hues and tones. Allowing the events to be captured in intimate detail and layering this with personal pain or tragedy. The scene for instance of the first night is very hard to watch because of this unflinching eye which gives us Intensity, psychological fragmentation and rips away naivety. Never feeling melodramatic or lacking in refined touches of deep, rich love. Here we are hankering down and in the thick of the moment. This creates a counter position to Pride and Prejudice but also makes for compelling viewing at times. Its use of natural light adds to this realism. So a rave from me in almost everything. I would recommend a Sunday spent watching this film.