Valerie Donzelli's fourth feature, Marguerite and Julian, part of the ongoing Cannes Film Festival, talks about forbidden love -- between a brother and sister, and interestingly it is based on a script which Francois Truffaut abandoned. The incestuous affair takes place in France, in an aristocratic family in the seventh century.
Though mounted splendidly, some modern-day inserts like helicopters and transistor radios are confusing! Does Donzelli imply that incest still happens through these contemporary gadgets?
The captions in the beginning tell us that the movie is based on a true story, and we first meet the siblings when they are kids. Their uncle is quick to notice a strong attachment between the two, and prevails upon the children's father to send Julian away to a boarding school and later to self-improvement courses in Europe. But when Julian returns as a young man (Jeremie Elkaim), Marguerite (Anais Demoustier) finds that she is still sexually attracted to him.
Marguerite is married off to a rich tax collector, an event that forces her and Julian to make a desperate bid to escape to England. The end may horrify many of us, but then remember it was the 7th century when incest was considered by the church and others as a heinous sin.
Donzelli scripts a narrative that tries to tell how incest affects a rich family -- though she helms the film without the least trace of prurience in it. Therein lies the beauty of Marguerite and Julian.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is covering the Cannes Film Festival for the 26th year.)