Archive of films enfants terribles / Les enfants terribles

1949, 105 min

Section: Tribute to Jean-Pierre Melville
Year: 2012

Elisabetha and Paul are joined by a special sibling bond which drives them to constant bickering and eccentric behavior. When they’re left to their orphaned fate, other bizarre tendencies awaken within them. Jean Cocteau chose Melville to shoot his eponymous novel.


As was the case with his previous film The Silence of the Sea, Jean-Pierre Melville attempted here to demonstrate how a character’s moral codex influences his or her outlook, how they develop, and in what ways they are blind. Once again, the plot was based on a literary work, this time the novel of the same name by Jean Cocteau published in 1929. The story of siblings Elisabeth and Paul provides an analysis of erotic relationships based on both incest and homosexual proclivities. The plot verges on absurd theater when the protagonists isolate themselves from the outside world in an eccentric atmosphere of bizarre games and mutual pretense, leading to intrigue and a tragic outcome. Jean Cocteau, it is said, wouldn’t allow a film adaptation of his novel, but in the end he chose Jean-Pierre Melville for the job. Their relationship was sorely tested during the shoot since the director brooked no interference, while Cocteau couldn’t help but give advice. In the end, Melville allowed him to film eight shots (the scene on the beach when uncle buys a straw hat). Thus, thanks to a lucky coincidence, Cocteau became an occasional director of the film version of his own novel. In addition, the multitalented artist lent his voice to the narration and the sound of his own heartbeat to the character Paul. The novel was updated through the costumes, which were to give the story universal significance. This time around, Melville diverges from the literary work in his efforts to give the film an impression of timelessness. And he employed rather sophisticated camera movements to express his protagonists’ psychological states.


49, avenue Paul Doumer, 8e étage gauche, 751 16, Paris
Tel: +33 145 624 945
E-mail: [email protected]

About the film

Black & white, 35 mm

Section: Tribute to Jean-Pierre Melville
Director: Jean-Pierre Melville
Screenplay: podle stejnojmenné předlohy / based on the novel by Jean Cocteau
Dir. of Photography: Henri Decaë
Editor: Monique Bonnot
Producer: Jean-Pierre Melville
Production: Melville Productions
Cast: Nicole Stéphane, Edouard Dermithe, Renée Cosima, Jacques Bernard
Contact: Cinexport

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