The Passion of Beatrice (1987) from ICMS

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

To begin with it is 127 minutes long, with the emphasis on long.

After only 12 seconds I already suspected that I would be in for a tough ride when this opening message appeared. I'll translate for your convenience: "La Passion Béatrice is a film of emotion rather than a psychological oeuvre. Its characters are only guided by their interior pulsations. Their universe is both vaste and fierce, haunted by the powers of the Hereafter, a universe where the sacred goes side by side with the barbaric. They are naked beings, possessed, too shaken by the forces of Good and Evil to see gray-shades, the chiaroscuro. They are wild children. They are what we still are at night, in our dreams. They are our unconscious."

Are you getting the picture here? In a nutshell the story deals with Beatrice de Cortemart (Julie Delpy), a gentle, God-fearing but naive noblewoman, and her father François (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu). Beatrice's dad and brother are taken captive by the English after the battle of Crécy (1346). Four years later they are finally allowed to return home after Bea paid for the ransom by sell practically everything they owned except their castle. Dad was already a pain in the arse before he left, but upon his return he has become even worse, much worse. In fact he might be the devil reincarnated.

He humiliates his son, who really is a wimp, in public several times. He thinks his daughter is his personal possession with whom he can and does have his way, thereby deflowering her in the process. He loots and kills mercilessly in the area around his castle, and seems haunted by something. And before I forget, he is also THE misogynist of all misogynists. I'll give just one example. Near the end of the movie he says to someone that he doesn't believe in the Holy Trinity because he can't have faith in a god that lowers himself to be born out of a female !!! Remember, those are his words, not mine.

The main reason why I found this to be a very long watch is the fact that all characters are one-dimensional and practically don't evolve. Furthermore you expect some kind of explanation for all this cruel behavior, but none is given, as the beginning indicates. All this makes that there isn't really a storyline and to me the film looked more like a succession of "tableaux vivants", to stay with the painting terms from the movie's introduction. This of course implies some nice photography, but that alone is not enough to make a comfortable watch for 127 minutes. The dialogue is merely there to add somewhat to the imagery and is often unrelated to the story. Furthermore the father character is so despicable and unredeemed that the film is constantly unpleasant.

There is a bit of relief after 56 minutes when a young 18 year old Julie Delpy makes her first shy nude appearance. Later she is naked again,  just after her father has raped his up-till-then-virginal daughter. Still later, dad wants to marry his daughter and he comes in with some fabric for the bridal gown. When the bridal gown is finished, he brings it to a naked Bea in her bathtub. Let me put your minds to ease. Béatrice won't end up married to her father. She does evolve a little bit at the very end, takes matters into her own hands and solves the problem with dad once and for all.


I sure was glad to see the end credits.



  • The Spanish region 2 DVD, as far as I know the only available edition of this Bertrand Tavernier movie. While the image is a very good anamorphic widescreen transfer, especially the French audio leaves somewhat to be desired. For those thinking of acquiring this DVD, let me warn you that it is only in French or Spanish with optional Spanish subtitles. Nada inglés, I'm afraid.

  • The link to the left goes to the VHS tape, but it is out of print.



Julie Delpy shows all in several scenes.

Isabelle Nanty shows her breasts.

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The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

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