Le journal d’une femme de chambre (1964)

by guest writer

Le journal d’une femme de chambre (Diary of a Chambermaid) marks the second adaptation of Octave Mirbeau’s novel after the one made by Jean Renoir in the US in 1946. What makes this different from Renoir’s film is the interpretation and depiction of the characters. Luis Buñuel’s version is much more concerned with the social circumstances of the Monteils, for which Célestine (Jeanne Moreau) starts to work.

This family is an odd group of people with strange habits: the old man is a fetishist, the husband (Michel Piccoli) is a hunter in every way, the wife is frigid and the farm-labourer, Joseph, is a human beast with fascist notions. What makes the film a huge achievement is Buñuel’s delicate, yet brutal description of the decadent bourgeoisie. By adding surrealist images, the director hints to the worst imaginable both in terms of situation and condition. Diary of a Chambermaid does wonders at every level analyzing how easily the human soul can be corrupted and offers a great lesson on not to expect justice out of life. Célestine’s decision at the end of the movie makes it one of its kind.

photo credit: The Criterion Collection


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