The Bridesmaid (2004)

“You’re the one I was waiting for.”

The film The Bridesmaid (AKA La Demoiselle d’Honneur) based on a Ruth Rendell novel, from French film director Claude Chabrol, explores the pathological relationship that develops between a young couple who meet at a wedding. Philippe Tardieu (Benoit Magimel) works for a remodeling company in a small town. As the only man in the household, he’s a good son to his hairdresser mother, Christine (Aurore Clement) and a good brother to his two sisters Sophie (Solene Bouton) and Patricia (Anna Mihalcea). At Sophie’s wedding, he meets her bridesmaid Stephanie Bellange (Laura Smet)–who is called “Senta.” There’s an instant attraction between Philippe and Senta, and they abruptly throw themselves into a passionate–but strange–relationship.

Senta, who lives in a cellar in a large, neglected house, is odd. But Philippe chalks up many of her statements to fanciful ‘stories’. When she suggests that they each kill someone–anyone–to prove their love, Philippe plays along with Senta’s demands, thinking that this is just Senta’s dramatic, fanciful side, but then he realizes that she just may be deadly serious….

The film’s intense, strange atmosphere cannot hide the vast defects in plot. Philippe would have to be seriously deranged not to run from this situation, but instead, Philippe keeps coming back for more. Bear in mind that his relationship with Senta is fairly new–if someone took you down to a creepy cellar dwelling and laid out plans for murder within the first 24 hours of their acquaintance, most of us would exit FAST. But Philippe doesn’t. Of course, this raises the possibility that Philippe is a loony too, and that’s certainly plausible, but unfortunately, the film doesn’t take us in that direction. Yes, Philippe’s odd–he has that whole relationship with a statue’s head, for example, but his character just isn’t weird enough to explain the plot.

Compare this film to Hitchcock’s Strangers on Train–bearing in mind that critics often argue that Chabrol is a French Alfred Hitchcock. The premise of Strangers on a Train is somewhat similar to The Bridesmaid, but without the romantic element. Strangers on a Train is a masterful production that works perfectly while The Bridesmaid is ultimately implausible, and we are not given adequate reasons for Philippe’s behaviour. If he were portrayed as a more deranged character, then that would have helped the plausibility factor, but as it is, Philippe’s character–pivotal to the entire plot–is too normal–and his actions just don’t make sense. In French with English subtitles.

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Filed under Claude Chabrol, France

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