Director, Writer: Alain Robbe-Grillet
Release: 1974 (France)
Anicée Alvina – The Prisoner
Olga Georges-Picot – Nora
Michael Lonsdale – The Judge
Jean Martin – The Priest
Marianne Eggerickx – Claudia
Claude Marcault – Sister Julia
Maxence Mailfort – Customer
Nathalie Zeiger – Sister Maria
Bob Wade – Gravedigger
Jean-Louis Trintignant – The Police Lieutenant
Isabelle Huppert – Bit
Hubert Niogret – Photographer
Alain Robbe-Grillet – Passer-by
Catherine Robbe-Grillet – A sister
A young girl is questioned by the police and a judge, suspected of being a modern witch. The woman who shared her apartment has been found dead, a pair of scissors impaled through her heart, as she lay attached to the bedposts. Apparently, the girl does have powers, to make all people around her fall prey to her spell, sliding progressively into desire, lust, and the unknown.
The film delves into the surreal and demented psyche of a young woman following the murder of her partner Nora. She is incarcerated in a convent prison where her sexual and sadistic desires interrupt her sense of reality.
Review (adapted from CG’s former XViD page, now-deleted):
Although this was made before writer/film director Alain Robbe-Grillet’s slightly less obscure “Playing with Fire”, it is even more deranged, surrealistic, perverse, and non-narrative. It resembles the early French surrealist films of Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali except that it is in colour and contains Robbe-Grillet’s usual manipulation of time and narrative (see “Last Year at Marienbad” or any of his novels, especially the excellent short novel “Jalousie”). The film seems to be about a young student who is questioned by both police and religious authorities after her room-mate is found bound and murdered, except it’s not clear whether her room-mate is actually a real person or just a mannequin in a bizarre art-piece, and it’s not even really clear whether she’s being questioned after or BEFORE she has committed this “murder”.
Like several other French film-makers of this era, Robbe-Grillet got away with making such an experimental, non-narrative feature by adding softcore exploitation elements (ie, breasts all over the place), but he doesn’t “sell out” to the exploitation angle as much as some of his countrymen (such as Jean Rollin), which might be one reason that Robbe-Grillet’s films are a lot harder to find today. There is very little straight erotic sex in this film; instead there is a kind of extreme “polymorphous perversity” (as psychologists call it, i.e. “the human ability to gain sexual gratification outside socially normative sexual behaviours”) that can be pretty disturbing. There are a lot of scenes of both women and female mannequins in sadomasochist/bondage poses and splattered with blood or red paint. There is also a little bit of “Lolita-ism”. The star, Anicée Alvina, is a beautiful girl with a great body (a long, strange scene where she covers her glorious full-frontal nakedness with red paint and makes “self-portraits” by pressing herself against the white walls of her cell is especially memorable). She was only 20 when the film was made (and just 21 when it was released), and actually plays a minor in the film (i.e. not yet 18) according to a line her character says. Robbe-Grillet often has her dressed (when he has her dressed at all, that is) in a “baby doll” outfit or a Catholic schoolgirl uniform, and pouting at the camera playfully.
The film features an early appearance by Isabelle Huppert, who is 2 months younger than Anicée Alvina, and who is now one of France’s most respected actresses.