The film Madame de, directed by Max Ophuls is perfection. This tragedy of love, which begins in narcissistic flirtation and passes from romance to passion, to desperation, is set, ironically, in aristocratic circles that seem too superficial to take love tragically. Everything from the writing, casting, direction, photography and finally to editing is flawless. It is an example of a film done right, an example of a director with a vision, and the choices he makes to execute his vision.
The performances by Danielle Darrieux as Madame de, by Charles Boyer as her husband, Monsieur de, a general, and by Vittorio De Sica as her lover, the Baron, are all superb. OphÃÂ¼ls' lush, decorative style, and his darting, swirling camera are used to evoke the protection that style and manners and wealth provide, and to demonstrate that passion can destroy it all.
In Madame de there occurs a rather intricate merger of complex, even dazzling, camera work with a thematic idea revolving around mankind's obsession with material objects.
In order to establish this union, Ophuls creates a narrative framework based upon a notion of circularity in which Madame de's earrings, being material, remain constant while the changing emotional situations of their various possessors continuously alter the earrings' symbolic implications. Ultimately, they emerge as a badge of love and as the harbinger of domestic tragedy. The fundamental element in this clash between what is best described as a relentless unfolding of events and the deliberate stasis represented by the earrings, is performed by Ophuls' tracking camera as it juxtaposes intimate and dramatic shots to reveal both theme and character.
Supporting this technique is an extremely poised delineation of the film's narrative materials to create a delicate balance between the lush, luxuriant atmosphere conveyed by the settings in which the...