“Madame de Sévigné”: Isabelle Brocard films the passionate epistolary relationship between a mother and her daughter


It is not a proper biopic that Isabelle Brocard’s feature film Madame de Sévigné offers. The director, to whom we owe My Night Companion (2011), a film, which already focused on the intense relationship between two women, rushes into the genre through a judicious approach: the passionate relationship between the great letter writer of the 17th century (played by Karin Viard) and her daughter, Françoise (Ana Girardot), who, having become a woman, shows herself to be very far from the demands of independence defended and lived by her mother. She, however, insists: she wants her daughter in her image, wants her to fulfill her ideal of female emancipation – the young girl will refuse this.

After escaping the title of mistress of the king, Françoise – on the advice of her mother – marries M. de Grignan (played by actor and director Cédric Kahn), a man of the old nobility, and gradually embraces a role conventional wife. The two women move away, so a correspondence begins between them which has all the makings of lovers.

Originality of the scenario

And this is where the originality of the scenario appears, which films a filial relationship as a passionate love story where Françoise always slips from her place, rebels, snatches away her paradoxical freedom by choosing not to be as free as his mother. In passing, this beautiful idea emerges: Ms. de Sévigné’s demand for independence is just a neurosis like any other, soon an influence.

Something disturbing, almost erotic, then happens between Karin Viard and Ana Girardot, and this relationship (between characters and actresses) redistributes the cards of a film always on the verge of being too classic. But this promise of romance that is made to us ultimately has difficulty freeing itself completely from the rigidity of the costume film.

The fault lies in a scenario tied to their correspondence, which struggles to convey the passage of time, and therefore emotions. We would have dreamed of a film that was undoubtedly less faithful and crazier, tipping into the madness of its heroine, and which would have had more confidence in the direction to infuse a romance worthy of this love.

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