We’re initially introduced to two cheery pre-teen sisters as they read aloud this romantic account of murderous lust from the confines of a cluttered attic. This framing device hints that what we’re about to see is based on memories from Breillat’s own childhood and it’s a version of ‘Bluebeard’ into which she clearly channels her personal concerns, making her own tiny but significant stresses.
The strange sequence of events that leads recently destitute Marie-Catherine (Lola Creton) to accept the repugnant Bluebeard’s (Dominique Thomas) hand in marriage plays out in a series of gracefully shot and paced tableaux which come to life through a pair of wonderfully sad-eyed and mysterious performances from the leads. Toning down the aggressive sexuality of such previous features as ‘Romance’ and ‘A Ma Soeur!’, Breillat’s film is no less barbed in its insights on the physical torments of love and the strains of sibling disunity. Her spare but lively re-creation of medieval France does not draw undue attention to itself (think Rohmer’s ‘Perceval le Gallois’ without the plastic trees), and her droll critique of the scourge of patriarchy is refreshingly modern.