After Calderón and Proust, Comédie de l’innocence is another literary adaptation, this time from the little-known Italian surrealist Massimo Bontempelli. Updated from the last fin de siècle to this more recent time of uncertainty, Comédie de l’innocence’s plot is small but perfectly formed. With Aristotelian rigour it moves from the opening conundrum (a child torn between two mothers), through the complication (the confrontation between the mothers and Ariane’s brother Serge), to a satisfying conclusion. Ruiz, who takes a co-credit as scriptwriter with Françoise Dumas, keeps up the tension, however, with laconic and enigmatic dialogue. When Ariane visits the empty flat of Isabella, a nosy neighbour remarks: ‘I really don’t want to know.’ Ariane replies: ‘There is nothing to know.’
Likewise Ruiz challenges the viewer to find out if there is a hidden secret at all. So the film is full of allegories that are just too tempting. Ariane’s house, which has been in the family for generations, has a basement where the old furniture is locked away, the very image of the unconscious. Her name is clearly symbolic: like the mythological Ariadne, she holds the threads that demystify the labyrinth (Serge remarks as much). An 18th-century print of The Judgement of Solomon hangs on the wall. When the camera lingers on it we feel cheated; the allusion to a divided child and maternal rivalry is obvious. But then Serge voices his own discomfort with the picture: it is just ‘too pertinent’ to the family’s own story of a boy torn between two mothers.
Beyond its formality and sobriety, then, Comédie de l’innocence poses some awkward questions. If the child – who seems wise beyond his years – is an adult (the only film-maker in the film), then the adults are children (both Ariane and Serge react violently when their childhood toys are touched). And as the title has a specific resonance in French (where faire la comédie means to play a part), then a problem remains at the end. Just who is acting and who is innocent: the disturbed child or the (possibly) deranged mothers? If Comédie de l’innocence lacks both the bracing difficulty of Ruiz’s experimental works and the lush pleasures of his Proust adaptation, it is still to his credit that, through the brilliant performances he elicits from his two lead actresses, he leaves such questions fully open.
1.27GB | 1h 38mn | 785×476 | mkv