Henri-Georges Clouzot directs Brigitte Bardot, Sami Frey and Charles Vanel in this French courtroom drama in which a wayward girl’s sex life is put under the microscope after she kills her lover.
A mixture of French courtroom procedure and flashbacks through the accused’s life, this works best as a youth movie first and a crime movie second. I think most people approach La Vérité, owing to the title, as a Rashomon investigation into people’s perspectives on a murder. I think that kinda misses the point and does the narrative a disservice. We are never meant to doubt the sincerity of Bardot’s unfortunate Left Bank sex kitten or mistrust her testimony. The predicament is that she is being judged by a conservative, hypocritical, aged patriarchy unwilling to see the humanity in her story. They want to blame her; her youth, her femininity, her allure, her freedom, her rejection of social norms. Her guilt is she is living a way of life of they do not want to admit to… to allow into evidence. Tragic and doomed Dominique is modernity… for all it naivety, faults and insecurity. The conservative system has very little heart for her plight, but also can not be seen to validate the permissive changes that the Sixties will bring. The Truth is that French values are shifting, but the accused has broken the rules too early to be forgiven by the state. Bardot here is a more calamitous peer to Julie Christie’s Darling. The worst case scenario of what might happen to a young girl who doesn’t want to submit to outmoded expectations of her. Even as she falls from rebel without ambition to martyr, she retains her desirability. We are meant to lust after her, even as men use her and assault her emotions. Perhaps we are meant to conclude that how can someone so desirable and so vivacious be treated as disposable? While Dominique is equally capable of wanton behaviour Clouzot shifts our sympathies from her less and less in the second half. Her position is far more precarious than those she commits her small transgressions against. The film does have pacing issues, but some of the best scenes (an all-night spurned lover staking out a hotel springs to mind, Paris shutting down and coming back to life) work because of their indulgence.
Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk
We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/