Les enfants terribles
(The strange ones)
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.