Amazon Prime Video may not yet measure up to other streaming services with such extensive catalogs or exclusive franchises that allow them to have a particular prestige. Although that is debatable, something that does not seem to be is his effort to generate proposals with a robust tone, interesting stories and, in turn, well developed. In that sense, one of the most recent is You bal des folles (The Mad Women’s Ball) by Mélanie Laurent, which will premiere next Friday, September 17.
This French thriller is based on the literary work Le bal des folles de Victoria Mas. The production is scripted by the Deslandes brothers, Laurent and Christophe, with the direction of Mélanie Laurent. It is important to pay attention to the name of the director because it is one of the first surprises found at work.
She, remembered by Inglorious Bastard (Quentin Tarantino, 2009), appears in two key roles within the production. One is the protagonist, playing the role of Geneviéve. She is one of the nurses who works at the Hospital de la Pitié-Salpêtrière, a royal and historical medical center in Paris, where women were hospitalized during the 19th century. The second role is your phase as a director. Although it is not the first project he has directed, it may be the most important. The Mad Women’s Ball is a powerful work.
A look to the past
(that looks like the present)
You bal des folles focuses on the relationship that men have with women. Although it is a period film efficiently recreated at the Hospital de la Pitié-Salpêtrière and with impressive costumes, Le bal des folles leaves the feeling that it was not so far behind. Therefore, beyond the general theme seems common, the production is not. It all begins with the protagonist of the story, Eugénie, played by Lou de Laâge. She can communicate with the beyond, bringing truths that are not always convenient.
What is the natural reaction of your environment? To think that she is crazy. That, in a time where prestige and reputation had a different dimension than today, is a stain on the family name. So Eugénie is admitted to that center where she meets Geneviéve. Although at first it is not clear what happens with Eugénie, the story itself discovers things and, most importantly, his surroundings understand that it is not a psychological problem.
During the different sequences of You bal des folles in which Lou de Laâge participates, his performance draws everyone’s attention. Not only is it credible but it is also moving. At times the intensity that it transmits is such that it generates a kind of fear. That raises the suspicion that The Mad Women’s Ball, rather than a thriller, can be a horror film. It does not go so far, but the interpretation remains on the table: have not women been exposed for centuries to something quite similar to a madhouse run by men?
That’s how crude is the bet of Mélanie Lauren, who recently declared that the birth of her daughter inspired her to make a film with a feminist look.
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‘You bal des folles‘and wealth
of the interpretations
As Le bal des folles progresses, it is not only clear the contempt on the part of the ruling class for women and their problems. Also, as part of a more complex gender problem and a series of changes that do not go in only one direction, the women in the story seem to be trapped in ideas and behaviors that atomize them.
That side is interpreted, also in a great way, by Emmanuelle Bercot. The actress is one of the nurses responsible for taking care of Eugénie and who is in constant contact with Geneviéve as she is an employee of the same place. Bercot does everything possible to sustain behaviors that, seen from a current gender perspective, evoke any kind of philosophy except sisterhood.
From the relationships that occur between her, another of the messages that the director Mélanie Laurent seems to want to suggest through Le bal des folles is filtered: perhaps, on occasion, women not only have to face machismo but also cultural beliefs, also macho, that other women carry. The possible interpretations that can be made of You bal des folles make it a smart production. Being critical of the subject she addresses and with the viewer, she does not saturate him but she does challenge him, hand in hand with a series of solid performances and perhaps having drunk from series such as The Maid’s Tale.
Amazon Prime Video continues to explore current topics with compelling perspectives, as it has already done through Nine Perfect Strangers and more. At least in the aforementioned cases, the presentation before the viewer invites curiosity. After that step, with projects like this one by Mélanie Laurent, the reflection is a little closer.