Monday, 31 August 2015

Don't Deliver Us from Evil

Don't Deliver Us from Evil (original title: Mais ne nous délivrez pas du mal) is a 1971 French film directed by Joël Séria. It is loosely based on the Parker–Hulme murder case of 1954.

Anne de Boissy and Lore Fournier are two adolescent Angevin girls who stay at a Catholic boarding school. Both have affluent and conservative families living in the countryside and on becoming friends and later lovers, the two decide to join forces in their malicious rebellion. When Anne's parents take a long trip and leave Anne behind during summer vacation, Lore starts to stay with Anne at her château. They play some malicious games on two men: releasing the cows of the cowsherd Émile as well as setting fire to his home, and killing the pet birds of the mentally challenged gardener Léon. They store sacramental bread from church and prepare the abandoned chapel at the château for a mock marriage ceremony in which they dedicate themselves to Satan. One night, they meet a motorist who ran out of gasoline and invite him to the château. The girls seduce the man and when he attempts to rape Lore, he is killed by Anne. When a detective is sent and he finds clues linking them to the murder, the pair is convinced that the man's body will be discovered and immolate themselves at a recital while reading poems by Baudelaire.'t_Deliver_Us_from_Evil

Dark, beautiful, erotic. Three words that barely sum up the true nature of this extraordinary tale of two young girls (Jeanne Goupil and Catherine Wagener) whose attraction to "evil" becomes a smoldering obsession. Director Joel Seria has crafted a deliberately paced exploitation masterpiece that is the thematic and sensual equal of such cinematically potent fare as "Maladolescenza", "To Be Twenty" and "Heavenly Creatures". Eager to experience as much "life" as possible, the two protagonists wreak unholy havoc in a small rural hamlet by setting fire to property, killing animals, engaging in anti-Catholic rituals, and using their naive carnal charms to seduce a string of men who all meet unfortunate fates. The seduction scenes, in particular, are very erotic, and it's unlikely they would be attempted today in this highly reactionary, less sexually permissive era. The photography, by Marcel Combes, is stunning, and reminded me of the night sequences in Richard Blackburn's "Lemora, A Child Tale of the Supernatural"; also, the hypnotic musical score, by Claude Germain and Dominique Ney, turns everything to poetry. One of the best films ever made about the attraction of the dark, it is a brilliant achievement both for its dream-like atmosphere and thematic courage of its convictions. The final scene, which possesses both an inevitable element of tragedy and considerable shock value, is wonderful.

As I watched Don't Deliver Us from Evil, it was hard not to think of a friend I had in adolescence named Katie. She and I were both mischievous (and maybe a little morbid) in our own ways, when left to our own devices, but when we were together, she had me doing things I never would have done on my own and for whatever reason her mother always believed me to be the bad influence on her daughter, when, in reality, it was the other way around; Katie was constantly challenging my conscience and coming up with new ways for us to get in trouble. Eventually, once we hit middle school, I drifted away from the first friend I made in pre-school, but I have never forgotten her and the bizarre past we share. She still lives in the same small town we grew up in and whenever she sees my mom, she tells her how much she loved me and how much our friendship meant to her. I did love Katie and our friendship was important, but I don't regret the decision I made to distance myself from her. In middle school I would go on to take the form of the bad influence on someone else who would drift away from me before we started high school (mostly at the request of her mother's intuition which was actually right about me...this time). Karmic retribution, maybe?

 Don't Deliver Us from Evil overcame any sort of misgivings I may have had about it at the start with the depraved, yet believable, coming-of-age story of two girls who, when put together, had a wicked attraction to each other which resulted in the girls doing things they never would have done on their own.

Apparently I should watch Heavenly Creatures again, but I may need a mental break before I can sit through a very similar story (derived from the same source) again.
Hollie Horror

No comments: