IMDb: A scheming servant works for a wealthy couple in France during the late 19th century.
I first saw the 1946 version directed by the film titan Jean Renoir and starring the luscious Paulette Goddard and I remember really enjoying that film and got me even more entwined with old films. I also remember getting extremely mushy and dewy-eyed during that garden scene between Goddard’s Célestine and the amazing Hurd Hatfield (whom I found so irresistible and had that Ben Whishaw charm, if you know what I mean). That scene was sooo romantic to me, it got to the point where I was absolutely embarrassing myself to me.
With that said, this 3rd movie adaptation from the 1900 anti-bourgeois French novel written by Octave Mirbeau, had a different tone and atmosphere — more somber and much darker, when compared to the original.
While Goddard’s heroine is sing-songy and playfully sassy, the always alluring Léa Seydoux’s Célestine is sullen, exhausted, scheming and full of shaded indignation. With such unpleasant-sounding characteristics, Seydoux has effectively played her with such nuance that you’ll feel sorry for her and just root for this poor girl.
Though I prefer the lightness of the original film, this version is still worth a watch especially for Léa Seydoux stans (which includes me btw). It’s an engaging period drama with solid performances from the cast as well as beautiful shots of the English countryside.
I am yet to watch the 2nd version, directed by another film titan Luis Buñuel and is the best out of the 3 (according to reviews), so if you’re interested, do so.