Jeanne Goupil in Don’t Deliver Us From Evil
I’ve said this before, the past is a much bigger place than the present, by which I mean that it is easier to find enticing books, films and music of by-gone eras than from the present era. Mike’s Esotika blog, one of the recent film blogs that have caught my eye gives ample attention to the past, and more importantly manages to discover and review films from that same past that are unknown to me (and I’ve done quite some searching over the few years). The latest entry on Mike’s blog is a review of the 1971 French film Don’t Deliver us from Evil. The film is directed by Joël Séria and upon seeing stills such as this, this and this one, I was excited. The first thing I do when a new name pops up is check whether it’s referenced at Jahsonic.com and yes, I was able to find it in the title listing of Amos Vogel’s Film As a Subversive Art. [The plot is revealed in Vogel’s write-up]
What was it that excited me? First of all, the title, any title with the world evil in it attracts me (which reminds me that I still need to document Barbey’s story Le Bonheur dans le crime of his Diaboliques collection). Second, the aforementioned stills and especially this one, in which the girls are reading that classic of transgressive literature Maldoror.
After checking for connections (my motto being: “Wanting connections, we found connections — always, everywhere, and between everything”) on my own site, I go out on the net and try to find more. First Wikipedia and IMDb, the French Wikipedia has this, IMDb this (sorted by ratings) and subsequently on the wild wild web. Where we find this: Joël Séria : Filmographie complète d’un obsédé sexuel with these 1, 2 [nsfw].
In an ideal world I would be able to connect to an online video on demand service provider and view the entire oeuvre of Séria. Perhaps in 5 years from now? At present, not even Youtube features clips of Séria’s films.
A teaser of the film:
Anne and Lore are two barely pubescent teens who attend a Catholic Boarding school. While seeming sweet, well behaved, and innocent from all appearances, the two have actually devoted themselves to Satan. While they are at school, the two intentionally ‘sin’ as often as possible without getting caught. They steal clothing and religious reliquaries in order to use in future Satanic rituals, they confess sins which they haven’t committed, they spy on the nuns, and they read transgressive literature under their covers once everybody else is asleep. Their life at the boarding school is a constant joke to them, and they giggle at everybody else’s misfortunes and the fact they are getting away with so much sin. Once summer break comes, their activities begin to get a little more serious.
And a review by Kinocite:
As a whole, Don’t Deliver Us From Evil / Mais ne nous délivrez pas du mal comes across as something akin to Francois Truffaut’s The 400 Blows as Luis Buñuel or Catherine Breillat might have imagined it – no bad thing, especially to those nay-sayers who would deny that European cult cinema of this sort has anything to actually say.
And all this time I was thinking that the film reminded me of another film. And while I suspected that my perceived connection was maybe too far fetched, DVDmaniacs.net confirms that the film was based on the same events that inspired Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures:
Never before released on home video in the United States and making its world premiere on home video in its uncut form for the first time ever, Don’t Deliver Us From Evil is a very loose adaptation of the notorious story of Pauline Parker and Juliet Hammond, the two murderous maids who also inspired Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures (still arguably his best film…. Hobbits and giant apes be damned). While there are some similarities between the two films, Joël Séria’s take on the story, his feature film debut, is very different in tone, execution, and theme as it manages to bring a far more blasphemous interpretation of the events into play.
Closing remarks: while researching Don’t Deliver I re-stumbled on film producer Antony Balch who was one of the first British entrepreneurs to embrace art, horror and exploitation films with equal enthusiasm, and who appropriately distributed Don’t Deliver in the U. K. .