The Widow of St. Pierre
French director Patrice Leconte believes in inevitable love and inevitable death. Both conspire across boundaries of class and social station to deal with humans on a basic, vital level. The Widow of St. Pierre continues this exploration found in such films as The Hairdresser's Husband and Girl on the Bridge. Even the titles demonstrate his interest in people defined by their relationship with others against a larger physical background.
The Widow of St. Pierre is set on a remote French Canadian island in the middle of the 19th century. French star Daniel Auteuil portrays St. Pierre's military Captain, and Juliette Binoche is his wife. The couple's liberal beliefs arouse suspicion and rumor within St. Pierre's closed community. They're particularly outraged when Mme. La (Binoche) takes Neel (Emir Kusturica) under her wing. He is a convicted murdered sentenced to be executed as soon as a guillotine reaches the island. Mme. La seeks to rehabilitate him. As Neel slowly develops into a useful member of the community, the islanders' antagonistic feelings toward the husband and wife and condemned handyman gently subside. But Neel has murdered, and the death penalty stands. The guillotine's imminent arrival underpins Leconte's heady romanticism. The titular widow slyly refers to Juliette Binoche's character, as well as the instrument of execution.
The Widow of St. Pierre deals in moral gravity. Essential dignity unconcerned with socially acceptable mores are Leconte's main interest here. Auteuil's intensity works to good effect.