review for La Passion Béatrice on AllMovie

La Passion Béatrice (1987)
by Mike Cummings review

Unlike most other films that depict the age of chivalry as a time of romance, gallantry, and high adventure, La Passion de Béatrice depicts it as an age of psychological dysfunction, domestic violence, and ennui. Set in and around a dreary castle in 14th century France, the motion picture centers on the wretchedness of medieval life as experienced by the Cortmart family. The leading actors -- Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu as François, Julie Delpy as Béatrice, and Nils Tavernier as Arnaud, François' son -- perform competently. Delpy, about 18 at the time of the filming, is especially good as the saintly, long-suffering Béatrice. In addition, the cinematography captures the look and feel of the age as it tags along on horseback or follows Béatrice down steep castle steps and through gloomy corridors. But director Tavernier shocked audiences -- and some critics -- with his graphic depiction of violence. Rather than suggesting or implying violence, he presents the full horror of it, including the rape of Béatrice, a teenager, and the sadistic maltreatment of Arnaud. Perhaps for this reason, La Passion de Béatrice is among the least successful and least well-known of Tavernier's films. In at least one area, however, the motion picture impressed the film community, earning it the 1988 César Award (the French equivalent of an Academy Award) for Best Costume Design.