In France in the early 1930s, Célestine, a stylish and attractive young chambermaid from Paris, arrives at a provincial estate and joins a household staff that includes a cook, a timid maid named Marianne, and Joseph, the groom, who spends his evenings writing nationalisic, anti-Semitic leaflets with a friend. Célestine was primarily hired to work for the elderly Monsieur Rabour, who insists on calling her Marie, which is the name he has used for all of his chambermaids, and likes to touch her leg while she reads to him and watch as she walks around wearing certain shoes. She seems happy enough to oblige him, however, and he defends Célestine from his daughter, Madame Monteil, when she breaks a lamp.
Madame Monteil runs the household and is very particular about how things are done. She and her husband are not physically intimate due to her dyspareunia, a problem with which the local priest has not been helpful, and Monsieur Monteil copes by expending his energy hunting small game in the surrounding woods and pursuing any woman who is nearby, including the former chambermaid, though Célestine playfully manages to keep him at arm's length. Monsieur Monteil is also feuding with a neighbor, the retired Captain Mauger, who throws his garbage onto Rabour's property to get back at Monteil for hypocritically spreading rumors about his relationship with his own housekeeper, Rose.
Diary of a Chambermaid (French: Journal d'une femme de chambre) is a 2015 French drama film directed by Benoît Jacquot, and written by Jacquot and Hélène Zimmer. It is an adaptation of Octave Mirbeau's 1900 novel of the same name and stars Léa Seydoux as Célestine, a young and ambitious woman who works as a chambermaid for a wealthy couple in France during the early twentieth century. Mirbeau's original novel was adapted into films multiple times before, notably Jean Renoir's 1946 film and Luis Buñuel's 1964 film.
In Normandy at the end of the 19th century, a beautiful and ambitious young chambermaid named Célestine (Léa Seydoux) enters the service of her new employers, the Lanlaire family, which consists of a bitter wife and her perverted husband. Monsieur Lanlaire has a reputation for molesting and impregnating his chambermaids, while Madame Lanlaire is known for her domineering attitude over her servants and often fires her chambermaids. She also meets the other servants: Marianne, the overweight and homely cook and the mysterious, older Joseph (Vincent Lindon), the groom, who shares a mutual attraction with Célestine.
Celestine has a new job as a chambermaid for the quirky M. Monteil, his wife and her father. When the father dies, Celestine decides to quit her job and leave, but when a young girl is raped and murdered, Celestine believes that the Monteils' groundskeeper, Joseph, is guilty, and stays on in order to prove it. She uses her sexuality and the promise of marriage to get Joseph to confess -- but things do not go as planned.
The Diary of a Chambermaid is, indeed, presented as a diary, chambermaid Célestine R. beginning her account on 14 September, as she starts a new job, and lasting just to 24 November, when she's moved on again. Her account is, however, not just of the day-to-day events in the Normandy town where she is currently situated, but also includes recollections of many of her previous experiences. Célestine isn't thrilled to: \"land up in a place like this, among such awful people, and miles from everything I like\". Her employers are the Lanlaires -- \"Monsieur and Madame Head-in-air Lanlaire\" --, with the appropriately ridiculous names of Isidore and Euphrasie. The husband is friendly -- but only because he'd like to get more intimate with the youg female help; the dominant wife is the one in charge, and thoroughly unpleasant. Promisingly, Célestine admits that:there are times when I suddenly feel within myself a kind of need, a mania, to behave outrageously ... A perversity, that drives me to turn the simplest things into irreparable wrongs. I can't help it ... even when I'm aware that I am acting against my own interests, that I shall only do myself harm. Generally dutiful, she's certainly not meek and stands up for herself (and others) when the need arises. But she also enjoys her fun -- indeed: \"I enjoy making love too much to be able to make a living from it\". Yet:though I like listening to dirty stories, I don't like reading them. The only books I enjoy are those that make me cry. Having her exposed to some literature and also to some literary types from her previous employment, Mirbeau even uses Célestine to poke fun at some authors -- especially Paul Bourget (who, she finds, is oblivious to the poor and their inner and outer lives: \"I'm not really concerned with such people\", he tells her). Mirbeau tries to delve where Bourget won't go, finding very much an inner life to his protagonist, with much of her defined by class and situation. Célestine acknowledges: \"Servants are not normal social beings, not part of society\" -- yet privy to so much of society, and to how: \"really crazily indecent in their private lives\" many of those of high standing are she can offer insight into the times and the culture. Mirbeau has an easygoing, natural style, and if perhaps not entirely convincing as the voice of a chambermaid, his Célestine is nevertheless an entertaining guide with some good stories to tell. Not surprisingly, there are some shocking goings-on. Célestine fends off a lot of unwanted attention (and gives in to some, too), but she's no victim. The most shocking events tend to be more distant: the coldness of her employer's reaction when Célestine's mother dies, and then the rape and murder of a young girl, which provides some of the tension as the novel moves forward, as Célestine suspects she knows who is responsible -- and finds herself drawn to the man. The novel is undeniably salacious, yet also fairly harmless; little of the description goes beyond: \"And what had to happen, happened ...\" What decadence this fin de siècle novel offers isn't in detailed intimate-encounter descriptions -- there's a touch of the erotic here, but nothing even close to explicitly pornographic -- as in its broad condemnation of society as a whole. It is not so much the loose sexual morals that Mirbeau focuses on (which he seems to take issue with only in how differently they are seen, depending on who is involved), but rather the faults and hypocrisy of class. \"Oh, these bourgeois ! Always the same old comedy !\" Célestine observes -- and that's exactly what the novel presents. Célestine recognizes the root of the problem -- and admits her own weakness in this regard: The worship of money is the lowest of all human emotions, but it is shared not only by the bourgeoisie but also by the great majority of us ... little people, humble people, even those who are practically penniless. And I, with all my indignation, all my passion for destruction, I, too, am not free of it. For all its social criticism, Mirbeau never forgets that he has to keep the reader engaged by telling a good story, and he manages that well. The episodes from Célestine's past make for a nice variety, while the events at her present-day job offer a good mix of small and larger domestic drama, too. Some criminal activity -- the young girl's rape and murder, and then a theft -- add to the tension, even as they, like so much, remain almost incidental. It's a bit much to juggle, at some points, but overall Mirbeau manages well, and The Diary of a Chambermaid is consistently a quite enjoyable read. Of course, in the present-day the social criticism doesn't sting quite as hard or in the same way -- the needling of Paul Bourget is sharp and very funny, but surely only if you know and have read Paul Bourget, and who still does -- and those looking for a bawdy tale will also be rather disappointed. Mirbeau's writing holds up well, however, and there's still enough to all this to amuse and entertain contemporary readers. - M.A.Orthofer, 31 March 2015
The worldly Célestine (Jeanne Moreau) comes to a provincial French town to become a chambermaid at the Monteil estate. Her new employers are a collection of strange behaviors: Madame (Francoise Lugagne) is obsessed with cleanliness and order, the patriarch (Jean Ozenne) engages her in nightly shoe-fetish games; the husband (Michel Picoli) constantly tries to take advantage of the hired women, and the groundskeeper Joseph (Georges Géret) is a closet Fascist and molester of small girls. Célestine tries not to get involved in the petty relationships of the Monteils and their feuding neighbor, until the savage killing of a sweet local child steers her into an active role in finding the murderer.
Léa Seydoux follows in the footsteps of Paulette Goddard and Jeanne Moreau as Célestine, a resentful young Parisian chambermaid who finds herself exiled to a position in the provinces where she immediately chafes against the noxious iron rules and pettiness of her high-handed bourgeois mistress (Clotilde Mollet), must rebuff the groping advances of Monsieur (Hervé Pierre), and reckon with her fascination with the earthy, brooding gardener Joseph (Vincent Lindon). Backtracking past the fetishism of Buñuel's version to Octave Mirbeau's original 1900 novel, Benoît Jacquot has one eye on contemporary France: the sense of social stiflement, Célestine's humiliating submission to Madame's onerous terms of employment, Joseph's virulent anti-Semitism. But the turn-of-the-century setting saw the rise of Freudian ideas about the human unconscious and so Jacquot takes care to look past the characters' outward behavior and appearance to the repression and compulsions that lie behind.
Célestine impresses us. Intelligent, attractive and sophisticated - but she nevertheless needs to earn her living in service. She takes the train from Paris to work as a chambermaid at a country estate. In this lap of wealth, she deals with a panoply of dodgy people. A brutish handyman. A frigidly overbearing Madame Monteil. Madame's lecherous husband and her kinky father. Remarkably, none of these are portrayed as stereotypes. Characters are well fleshed out as Buñuel pits one against another. Madame Monteil earns our sympathy as she confides sexual shortcomings to the priest, who is in turn well-meaning if hopelessly out of touch. Doddering old Monsieur Rabour, although at first shockingly abhorrent with his fixation on women's feet, probably has nothing more harmful than a shoe fetish. \"Would you mind if I touch your calf\" he asks (but goes no further up her leg). Is Célestine playing a dangerous game Is she a libertine Or just one step ahead of her audience 59ce067264