Thursday, 5 July 2012

La Souriante Madame Beudet (1922)

La Souriante Madame Beudet

All the movies in the book are there for a reason. Some were particular popular, others won prizes and yet some were technologically innovative.

“La Souriante Madame Beudet” was a very early, maybe the first, feminist movie.

Unfortunately there is little reason otherwise for letting it take up a valuable slot in the book.

Madame Beudet is a prisoner in her own home. Her husband is a tyrant who is abusing her, forcing her to do things she does not want to do and terrorize her with his simple demonic presence. She dreams of escape. Men step out of her magazines and help her get rid of Mr. Beudet. Her husband has a particularly nasty habit of forcing her by putting a gun to his own head telling her that he is going to shoot himself. In her despair she places a bullet in the gun so he will kill himself, but even that backfires and he almost shoots her.

In short a story of male tyranny and how women are kept within the confines set up by society and the rules their husbands sets.

There is a different way to look at it as well.

Mr. Beudet cares for his wife, but she refuses him. She is withdrawn and he cannot get through to her. He offers a ticket to the theater so they can go out with friends, but she refuses. Only she lives in her little world and he is locked out of it. Mr. Beudet provokes his wife, tries to shake her out of her stupor but in vain. He is frustrated, does not understand her and is really sorry when he breaks her doll. When he almost shoots her in the end he does not even consider that the bullet was for him. He thinks she wants to kill herself and is devastated by the thought.

We see Mr. Beudet through the eyes of Madame Beudet and she obviously hates him. It is in her dreams that he is demonic. Objectively he is not half as bad, especially when you consider his frustrations with his wife. Caring for the cat is not exactly evil behavior.

So, if this is an early feministic movie about women under male tyranny it is a strangely one-eyed attempt.

If however the double angle is actually intended then it is more interesting and not really what I would call a feminist movie.

Unfortunately I have a suspicion that the former is intended rather than the later.   


  1. This movie didn't do much for me. I agree with your assessment - the husband is far from being a horrible man. In fact, I found the title character to be the one I disliked.

    1. A feminist movie where we may feel more sympathy for the man than the woman? hmm... that is an odd sort of feminism, no?

  2. Not a fan. Too artistic--when no clear cut answer is provided, or even one that is even worth pondering is provided, I can do without it. I watched it in French with no subtitles--try doing that and liking it.

    1. This film actually made me angry. At the leading character, at the director and at the editors of the list. This movie feels really stupid.