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April 8, 2016

LsThis film is an adaptation by playwright Michel Mare Bouehard of his play, Les Feluettes. Like Hamlet, John Greyson’s film centres on a man determined to avenge a wrongful death, who uses a play to draw out the confession of the man responsible.

When Bishop Bilodeau  visits a prison to hear the confession of ageing convict Simon Doucet, he is held hostage by the inmates of a Quebec prison in 1952 and subjected to the story of Doucet’s life and made to reflect on his complicity with a homophobic society, on his own self-hatred.

The ‘penitent’ is his boyhood friend, jailed for murder 40 years ago. The prelate finds out what really happened in 1912. We meet him as a young man, strait-laced, intent on convincing Simon (now the convict) to join the seminary with him.

The first tableau is a staging of the martyrdom of St. Sebastian. The scene is a rehearsal for a school play. The young Simon is a beautiful youth who is tied to a tree and kissed by his best friend, Vallier. Their passion is interrupted by the young Bilodeau, a boy headed for the seminary. He preaches about sin while secretly lusting after Simon because he is “as beautiful as a saint.”

Vallier, the son of an impoverished and eccentric countess, loves Simon and he is drawn to Vallier, but in fear of his father’s wrath for kissing Vallier during drama rehearsal, Simon courts a visiting Parisian, asking her to marry him. Vallier, encouraged by his mother, attends the engagement party to declare his love for Simon.

At the party, it becomes apparent that Simon never stopped loving Vallier and was only using Lydie-Ann to pass as heterosexual. Because her feelings are hurt, Lydie-Ann reveals to Vallier’s mother that her estranged husband is living happily in Paris with a new wife and child. She also tells her that she came to Roberval on the recommendation of Vallier’s father, and while he mentioned structures and the landscape of the town, he never once spoke of the wife or child he left behind there.

After the party, Simon and Vallier meet for one last romantic encounter. Afterwards, Vallier’s mother says that she will be going to Paris, and invites Simon and Vallier to see her off. Instead, she leads them to a place in the woods, where she lies down in a shallow grave and has Vallier strangle her to death. Bilodeau witnesses the murder, and is spurred to confess his love for Simon. When rejected, he sets fire to the room where Vallier and Simon are staying and locks the door, so that they cannot escape. Because there are no windows and no other way to ventilate the space, the two young men are soon overcome by the smoke and heat. Bilodeau is remorseful and returns in time to drag Simon to safety, but leaves Vallier in the room. Bilodeau falsely tells the policemen who have arrived on the scene that Vallier is already dead, so they do not go back to save him, and he perishes in the flames.

The play was designed not as Doucet’s confession of his sins, but a ploy to extract a confession of guilt from Bilodeau.

All of the roles in this film, including the women’s, are played by men. But then again, it is a men’s prison. Some of the acting is wooden but, then again, it’s in a prison.

A morality play about love, murder, and retribution – three themes that have dominated classical drama for millennia.

Lilies area symbol of innocence – of virginity but also of innocent men wrongly imprisoned.

Doucet keeps lighting matches throughout – maybe to cast light upon the situation.

Beautiful, haunting Requiem mass music by The Hilliard Ensemble, punctuates the film throughout.

A niggle – you wear a purple stole to heard confessions, not a white one.

Young Simon: [to Vallier] I shall be reborn. My breath in the heavens, bear witness. We shall be free. We’ll we be loved. If you do truly love me, let your love be known unto me.

Countess de Tilly: We must all take our leave of each other eventually. It is Nature’s law…Don’t cry.

Countess De Tilly: One must never confuse nobility and love: a state of the mind and a state of the soul.

[Trying to seduce Simon.] Lydie-Anne: I’d even let you… spoil my vacation.

“it’s time he started thinking about girls”

Countess de Tilly: They say a French woman is coming into town, flying in a marvellous red balloon.

Count Vallier de Tilly: The kind one sees in ones dreams?

Countess de Tilly: No, Vallier, the kind one sees in Paris.

Lydie-Anne: Love is the worst lie one can tell oneself.

[first lines] Chaplain: The confession will take place in the chapel.

[last lines] Older Simon: [Older Simon grabs Bishop Bilodeau by the back of the neck and holds a knife to his throat.]

The Bishop: Kill me.

Older Simon: [Older Simon kisses the Bishop]

The Bishop: Kill me.

Older Simon: [Hands knife to Bishop] Never, Bilodeau, never.

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From → Film, Sexuality

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