Film Review – La vérité (1960, Criterion Collection)

La Vérité is the story of a young French woman accused of the premeditated murder of her ex-lover. Dominique Marceau (Brigette Bardot) is judged by her behaviour, her beauty and her youth long before the account of her supposed crime is even addressed. Through flashback scenes, the film portrays the life of a young woman as she sets out for the first time and tries to find her place and her independence as she makes bad choices, finds out how the world sees her and how she is expected to behave. Whilst living with her sister, Annie (Marie-Josie Nat) and finding her way around helped by her charm and beauty, Dominique soon finds herself falling in love with Gilbert Tellier, (Sami Frey) a young conductor who Annie had been hoping to get close to herself. What follows is a nuanced and honest portrayal of a relationship that takes the audience back and forth as to what they believe to be the intentions of Dominique’s motives in her relationship. Although soon, they find themselves feeling sympathy for Dominique and that is in no small part due to Bardot’s impressive performance.

Cinema history may have placed Brigette Bardot as the French sex bomb of the Sixties but in La Vérité, Bardot shows that she was so much more than just a pretty face. From her anguish in the docks of the French court to her portrayal of the young, carefree woman torn apart by feelings that she cannot control, Bardot sends the audience through a journey of emotions that feel like they come from a real place of experience and authenticity. By the end, the audience is forced to look at themselves and how they may see somebody on the street and judge them purely by their appearance. They may even think twice before judging and see the person inside.

Besides Bardot’s central performance, the film’s script is just as authentic. It gives the world a look at how a young person would live, laugh and love in France in the Fifties and early Sixties and never strays far from something that all young people at the time would have recognised in themselves. As Dominique and Gilbert’s relationship develops the script stays with the same authenticity, both Bardot and Frey play their parts convincingly as a couple whose relationship is as fragile as it is passionate and so the audience becomes fully invested in Dominique’s story as it eventually meets the tragic end of their love story. A worthy film to be remembered, watched and kept as a reminder of great storytelling told well and with an unlikely star who fully delivers on the emotional weight that the role demands of her performance.

Joel Fisher

Drama |France, 1960 | 15 | Blu-Ray | Out Now | Subtitles | Criterion Collection (Sony Pictures Releasing)| Dir.Henri-Georges Clouzot | Brigitte Bardot, Paul Meurisse, Charles Vanel, Sami Frey, Marie-Josie Nat

New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
Le scandale Clouzot, a sixty-minute documentary from 2017 on director Henri-Georges Clouzot
Interview from 1960 with Clouzot
Interview with actor Brigitte Bardot from the 1982 documentary Brigitte Bardot telle qu’elle
New English subtitle translation
PLUS: An essay by film scholar Ginette Vincendeau

FRANCE | 1960 | 128 MINUTES | BLACK & WHITE | 1.66:1 | FRENCH