Monday, October 01, 2012

Manon des Sources

Based on Marcel Pagnol’s novel, Manon des Sources (Manon of the Spring) is the sequel to Jean de Florette in which the daughter of Jean de Florette seeks revenge for what happened to her father many years earlier as the Soubeyran land starts to become more valuable. Directed by Claude Berri and screenplay by Berri and Gerard Brach, the film explores the world of greed but also consequences in the fates of the Soubeyran as both Yves Montand and Daniel Autieul reprise their respective roles as Cesar and Ugolin Soubeyran. Also starring Emmanuelle Beart and Hippolyte Girardot. Manon des Sources is a complex yet compelling drama from Claude Berri.

More than a decade after buying the Florette land, Cesar and Ugolin Soubeyran are basking in their success over Ugolin’s carnation farm that has made them rich. With Cesar already growing old, he asks Ugolin to find a wife to that the Soubeyran empire can continue. While trekking around the hills, Ugolin catches a glimpse of Jean Cadoret’s daughter Manon (Emmanuelle Beart) who has become a goat herder as she lives with her Italian guardian Baptistine (Margarita Lozano). Ugolin tries to pursue yet Manon has become interested in the young schoolteacher Bernard Oliver (Hippolyte Girardot) who was in the hills collecting rocks. Ugolin makes an attempt to pursue Manon by professing his love to her but she refuses to respond.

On one day while herding the goats, Manon overhears a couple of villagers who reveal about their own guilt over knowing about the spring that could’ve helped Jean Cadoret years ago. Devastated by what she learned, Manon decides to seek revenge as one of her goats while herding has found the underground source for the village spring. In her act against the Soubeyran, Manon decides to dam the spring leading a water shortage as the town panics. After a church gathering where the whole town and Manon attends, the villagers admit their guilt over their treatment to Jean Cadoret as Manon publicly accuses the Soubeyrans over what they did to her father. Even worse is when a poacher finally reveals what he had seen years ago as it leads to an outcry of shame and guilt over all that had happened as the village learns some harsh truths.

In the aftermath of these revelations, Cesar deals with the shame he faces from the village as they hold a procession to get the water back. When an old friend of his in Delphine (Yvonne Gamy) returns to the village, she reveals to Cesar some news that would consume him with guilt as he tries to find redemption for his actions.

The film is an exploration on not just greed and deception but also guilt and redemption where it is all driven by an act of revenge over what happened in Jean de Florette. What the Soubeyrans did was cruel as they are hoping to become rich and be lauded by the village in hopes to make sure their name remains powerful and respected by the community. Even the villagers know about what really happened yet couldn’t admit to facing their guilt in front of Manon. When Manon learns about what really happened to her father, she is driven by revenge over her the loss of her father as she hopes to make the village and the Soubeyrans suffer for their actions. This would eventually cause some locals to finally confess their actions including a mysterious poacher who knew what really happened. Guilt finally emerges in the Soubeyrans as it would lead to not just tragedy but also revelations that goes beyond everything that Cesar Soubeyran had wanted.

The screenplay is more structured than its predecessor as well as being more engrossed in its themes. Notably as it revolves around guilt in the film’s second half where Ugolin finally admits to Manon about his actions and begs for forgiveness. There are no flashbacks in the story as it’s really isn’t needed in order to let the audience reflect on the events that had happened in the previous film. It’s through dialogue and character motivations that let the audience reflect on those past events. While the first half is more loose in its structure in order to establish the characters and what they’re doing, the second half is more dramatic where it reveals a lot about the past and Manon’s motivations. The third act doesn’t just contain elements of tragedy but also shocking revelations that would send Cesar Soubeyran to the edge as he becomes consumed with guilt and regret as he would make an attempt to redeem himself.

Claude Berri’s direction is entrancing for the compositions he creates as he definitely takes on some more stylish compositions to capture the beautiful locations in the hills and mountains. There’s also more intimate shots in scenes at the town and in some of the close-ups that Berri creates. Notably in moments such as the town meeting where there’s a lot of chaos goes on while the events after the meeting show a town just in a state of absolute panic. By the time the film reaches the third act, Berri goes into less stylish camera work to establish the sense of loss that is happening around Cesar as he deals with not just guilt but also the shocking news that he receives. Even with the film’s ending that is very poignant for all of the troubles and tribulations that happen as Cesar seeks redemption. Overall, Berri creates a fascinating yet mesmerizing portrait of guilt and redemption.

Cinematographer Bruno Nuytten does fantastic work with the colorful cinematography from the naturalistic look of the sunny locations to the array of lush lighting schemes for many of the film‘s nighttime interiors including the cave where Manon finds the underground spring source. Editors Herve de Luze and Genevieve Louveau do wonderful work with the editing by creating some nice rhythm for some of the film‘s suspenseful moments while using fade-outs to help flesh out the film‘s structure. Production designer Bernard Vezat does nice work with the set pieces such as the carnations garden that Ugolin has as well as the look of the underground spring source that Manon finds.

Costume designer Sylvie Gautrelet does amazing work with the costumes from the more posh clothing the Soubeyran men wear to the more mountain dresses that Manon wears early in the film. Sound editors Dominique Hennequin and Maryline Monthieux do terrific work with the sound to capture the intimacy of the church scenes to the chaos in the town meeting. The film’s music by Jean-Claude Petit is lovely for its playful orchestral score that ranges from fun to more serious and darker arrangements along with the use of Giuseppe Verdi’s La forza del destino to help play to the sense of loss that Manon deals with.

The casting by Marie-Christine Lafosse is brilliant for the ensemble that is created as it features some notable small appearances from Elisabeth Depardieu in a cameo as Manon’s mother Aimee, Yvonne Gamy as Delphine, and Margarita Lozano as Manon’s Italian guardian Baptistine. Hippolyte Girardot is very good as the kind teacher Bernard who befriends Manon as he becomes the one true friend that she has in town. Emmanuelle Beart is tremendous as Manon as she displays a great sense of enthusiasm and heartbreak into her role as well as a great sense of physicality since she doesn’t have a lot of lines to say.

Daniel Autieul is superb as Ugolin as he displays a wonderful sense of humor to his performance in the film’s first half as well as a sense of humility in the second half. Finally, there’s Yves Montand in an incredible performance as Cesar Soubeyran as he displays a man trying to defend himself against the crimes he had done only to realize that he committed a much bigger crime that forces him to seek redemption where Montand displays something unforgettable in the film’s final moments.

Manon des Sources is a remarkable film from Claude Berri that features marvelous performances from Yves Montand, Daniel Autieul, and Emmanuelle Beart. The film definitely stands as an intriguing piece on revenge, guilt, and redemption while it makes for a great double-feature with its predecessor in Jean de Florette. In the end, Manon des Sources is a ravishing yet endearing film from Claude Berri.

Claude Berri Films: (The Chicken) - (The Two of Us) - (So Long, Stooge) - Jean de Florette - (Uranus) - (Germinal) - (Lucie Aubrac) - (Hunting and Gathering)

© thevoid99 2012


aaronmeister said...

I remember having watching this and the prequel during my French classes in high school. Your reviews reminded me of them and perhaps its time return to them 12 years later.

Chip Lary said...

This film should always be watched hand in hand with Jean de Florette. Together they are a marvelous piece of cinema. I really see them as a part 1 and part 2 rather than movie and sequel. And how heartbreakingly beautiful was Beart in this film? I could completely see the effect she would have had on Autieul's character.

thevoid99 said...

@aaronmeister-I hope you can the chance to revisit these films. They're true gems.

@Chip-I watched Jean de Florette first and then Manon des Sources. Emmanuelle Beart is gorgeous.