The Mad Woman’s Ball (Le Bal des Folles)
Mélanie Laurent once again makes directorial magic in The Mad Woman’s Ball (original title Le Bal des Folles). The film tells the story of how headstrong and well educated Eugénie, who sees and communicates with spirits, finds herself in a neurological clinic for women. There she meets other women ostracised by their own families and society for many different reasons – from genuine mental illnesses to trauma that has resulted in them being branded as liars and “mad”. Like Girl Interrupted with a belle époque twist, the captivating picture stuns viewers with both disgust and wonder.
Everything comes in threes, beginning with the three main characters – Eugénie, Théophile, and Geneviève. There are also plenty of religious allusions, such as the trinity, and three main spirits catalyse the climax of each act. Even the ending pulls threads between three different events. This is an important note because, despite being dubbed a “thriller”, the production favours slow pacing and natural dialogue over anticipation and extreme tension. Nonetheless, the way Laurent executes each triad keeps things moving at every turn.
Most of the methods used to bring out the intricate details can be found in the cinematography, whose camerawork incorporates plenty of symmetry. Examples include consistently having the characters, specifically Eugénie and Geneviève, dead-centre of the scene. Tracking shots from behind are also regularly used to follow the characters and keep them in the middle of each frame. Different angles of the same scene are shot and spliced together. There are also plenty of further isolated moments designed specifically to create symmetry, such as mirror shots and characters speaking to one another through the divide of a wall.
The parallelism in the film’s structure is used to juxtapose and create cyclical contrast between the beginning and the ending. The audio and visual synergy embedded into the editing process ensures the timing of the background music and each audible sound is matched with visual cues – such as zoom-ins and outs, scene changes, and the flow of movements – almost to a perfect tee. It’s the little things like these that keep the quiet of the film ever-present and dangerous in the best way possible.
The Mad Woman’s Ball (Le Bal des Folles) is released on Amazon Prime Video on 17th September 2021.
Watch the trailer for The Mad Woman’s Ball (Le Bal des Folles) here: