Adolescence -- France -- Drama, Adolescent psychology -- France -- Drama, Brothers and sisters -- France -- Drama, Homosexuality -- France -- Drama, Incest -- France -- Drama, Teenagers -- France -- Drama

Les enfants terribles

(The strange ones)

Imported Print


Nicole Stéphane, Edouard Dhermitte, Jacques Bernard, Renée Cosima,

After seeing The Silence of the Sea, Jean Cocteau chose Melville to direct a screen adaptation of his novel Les enfants terribles. Melville preserved Cocteau’s voice and heart (figuratively and literally—he narrates the film, and it is his heartbeat we hear for that of Paul) in a film that deeply understands what its characters do not. It is the story of an obsessive love between a brother and sister, isolated in a room intended to defend their union against the world but which instead sends their passion back on them. More an environment than a story, the film moves as in a dream to the pace of poetry, slowed with the weight of its symbolic charge yet electric at every turn. The baroque assemblage of sickbeds, bathrobes, personal mementos, and idiosyncratic movements (into which Vivaldi and Bach concertos are brilliantly integrated) was shot on a shoestring budget in “real” settings—clarity, as always with Melville, being the door to the intangible.

Judy Bloch
  • Jean Cocteau
  • Jean-Pierre Melville
  • Jean Cocteau
Based On
  • the novel by Cocteau

  • Henri Decaë
  • French
  • with English subtitles
Print Info
  • B&W
  • 35mm
  • 105 mins
  • BFI
  • Janus Films

CineFiles is an online database of BAMPFA's extensive collection of documentation covering world cinema, past and present.

View Les enfants terribles documents  

Jean-Pierre Melville: the French connection (program note), Pacific Film Archive, Judy Bloch, 1996

The road to Melville (article), Village Voice, Elliott Stein, 1996

Revivals in focus (review), Village Voice, Tom Allen, 1986

Les enfants terribles (program note), Toronto International Film Festival, Cam Tolton, 1981

Narcissism, incest and Jean Cocteau: an indulgent journey from make-believe to madness (review), San Francisco Bay Guardian, Robert di Matteo, 1977

The blissful servitude of self-indulgence (review), Village Voice, Andrew Sarris, 1975

Words with an "enfant terrible" (interview), Village Voice, Robert Heide, 1975

New wave returns to our shores (review), Kathleen Carroll, 1975

Les enfants terribles (press kit), Libra Films, 1975

Les enfants terribles (program note), New York Film Festival, 1974

Displaying 10 of 23 publicly available documents.

View all Les enfants terribles documentation on CineFiles.