I Pierre Rivière

I Pierre Rivière


Reviewed by: Caro Ness

This film is mesmerising, not least because the director, René Allio, chose to use a cast entirely made up of real villagers from the area where the events took place. They serve him well, because the film has an authenticity and naturalness which would have been impossible to capture with trained actors. Based on the book by the French philosopher, Michel Foucault, the film charts the gruesome events that took place in a village in Normandy in 1835.

Pierre Rivière murdered his mother, sister and brother in an attempt to free his father from a life of drudgery brought on by her wilfulness and profligacy. The film is powerful because Allio chooses to show the crime from different perspectives as well as calling on the astonishing testimony of Pierre Rivière himself, which he wrote in prison and from a narrative that examines the historical milieu in which the action was set and our notions of what truth is.

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This film is gripping because the cast inhabit their roles with such conviction and because it is both a portrait of a psychopathic killing and its aftermath and a truly accurate historical reconstruction. The film also makes much of the fact that this case was historically unique because it was the first to allow psychiatric testimony to be used.

Allio deserves a medal for coaxing some miraculous performances out of his actors, particularly Claude Hébert as Pierre, Jacqueline Milliere as his mother, Joseph Leportier as his father and Annick and Nicole Gehan as his siblimgs. They should be singled out for the veracity and honesty of their work. It merits particular distinction, as does the beautiful camera work by Philippe Barrier. A remarkable piece of history, beautifully told.

Reviewed on: 04 Apr 2008
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Fictionalised retelling of the story of a man who murdered his mother, sister and brother in 19th century rural France.
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Director: René Allio

Writer: René Allio, Pascal Bonitzer, Marie-Hélène Quinton, based on the novel by Michel Foucault

Starring: Claude Hébert, Joseph Leportier, Jacqueline Millière, Antoine Bourseiller, Emilie Lihou, Pierre Leomy, Jacques Debary, Annick Gehan, Nicole Gehan, Michel Amphoux, Childeric de Boix Cuillé

Year: 1976

Runtime: 130 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: France


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